Tusschen mal en dwaas (Dutch)
is a novel written by Louis Couperus, first published in 1905. The title translates to “Between Madness and Folly” in English. The novel tells the story of a young man named Maurits who is struggling to find his place in the world, torn between his desire for success and his search for meaning and authenticity.
The novel is set in The Hague, the political and cultural center of the Netherlands at the time. It provides a vivid and colorful portrayal of the city and its inhabitants, capturing the social and cultural dynamics of Dutch society in the early 20th century. Couperus was known for his keen observations of social class and cultural mores, and “Tusschen mal en dwaas” is no exception.
The novel begins with the introduction of Maurits van der Trappen, a young man from a wealthy family who is living a life of leisure and indulgence. He is a talented artist, but lacks direction and purpose in his life. He spends his days partying with his friends, attending the opera, and pursuing his love interests.
However, Maurits soon begins to feel a sense of dissatisfaction with his life. He realizes that his pursuit of pleasure and frivolity is empty and meaningless, and he longs for something more substantial. He begins to question his place in society and his role as an artist, wondering if his art is merely a reflection of his own self-indulgence.
As the novel progresses, Maurits becomes increasingly disillusioned with the society and culture around him. He becomes involved in a love affair with a young woman named Cecile, but their relationship is complicated by her engagement to a wealthy banker named Van Nagel. Maurits struggles to reconcile his desire for Cecile with his sense of morality and his growing awareness of the hypocrisy and shallowness of the upper-class world in which he moves.
Meanwhile, Maurits’ friend and fellow artist, Jozef Israëls, is also grappling with questions of authenticity and artistic integrity. Jozef is a talented painter who is admired by the Dutch cultural elite, but he feels that his art is lacking in true meaning and depth. He becomes involved with a group of artists who are experimenting with new forms and styles, and he begins to explore new artistic directions that challenge the established norms of Dutch culture.
As the novel reaches its climax, Maurits and Jozef both face pivotal moments in their lives that force them to confront their deepest fears and desires. Maurits must choose between his love for Cecile and his commitment to living a meaningful and authentic life, while Jozef must decide whether to continue on the path of experimentation and risk alienating the cultural elite, or to conform to their expectations and compromise his artistic vision.
In conclusion, “Tusschen mal en dwaas” is a thought-provoking and engaging novel that explores the themes of authenticity, morality, and cultural identity. Couperus’ vivid and detailed portrayal of Dutch society in the early 20th century provides a fascinating window into a world that is both familiar and alien to contemporary readers. The novel remains a classic of Dutch literature and a testament to Couperus’ skill as a writer and social observer.