Gerrit Achterberg (1905-1962) was a prolific poet. He published some
thirty collections of poetry, while four volumes of collected poems, an
anthology and some translations of his work were already published during
his lifetime. Meisje, the slim volume whose front cover is reproduced
on the opposite page, appeared in the Volière-reeks, a series of
underground publications from the ‘agris occupatis’ (the occupied land),
established by the poet A. Marja [Arend Theodoor Mooij] together with the
lawyers W.H. Overbeek and J.B. Charles [W.H. Nagel]. Achterberg had met
Marja during World War II and as a result Meisje was also included
in the series. The cover was made by the Groningen printer Hendrik Nicolaas
Werkman (1882-1945), who also participated in the other publications in
the series. The cover shows his characteristic working method: a multi-coloured
stencilled printing resulting in overlapping colourful planes which together
constitute the picture.
Achterberg dedicated the book to ‘the radiant’. As the Dutch first
name ‘Bep’ means ``the radiant'', this might be interpreted as a dedication
to Bep van Zalingen, his former girlfriend, with whom he broke in 1932
after manifold problems. But it could also refer to Bep van Es, his landlady's
daughter. Achterberg had harboured passionate feelings for both mother
and daughter, feelings that had remained unrequited, and led to a dramatic
conclusion. On 15 December 1937 Achterberg fatally wounded his landlady
when she came to the rescue of her daughter, whom he had been harassing.
This incident acted as a catalyst for the leitmotiv in Achterberg's oeuvre:
love and death.
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