Fourhundred pages, one affable smile. Let’s congregate!

Cacti are shepherds of time. Ever since I saw the enormous cactus in Can Yücel’s garden, I knew he was a very special person. Of course, I already knew that thanks to his poems, but quality of poetry is a concrete matter only for great poets – for normal people it is all abstract, intangible and relative.

Listening to the latest Nieuwe Contrabas, I thought: yes, exactly. You have six books on the ‘shortlist’ of the Libris and they manage to evoke a handful of affable smiles from three people. That is exactly how I know Dutch literature.

There is no such thing as the roaring laughter as I experience with Tjechov or Gombrovicz. A faint smile, and then a cosy meeting about the book to ‘determine the quality’.

As a poet, you can then shout that this quality has long since been concretely determined by the body, that books which, after reading 400 pages, manage to evoke an affable smile twice, cannot possibly be literary books.

Opposite you now is an army of hollow-eyed psyborgs who haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. Literature is to them what fibre is to a government dietician: a word that covers a load.

That’s how it should be. And exciting literature, those are the books that are about the right woke subjects. Counting, reading comprehension, theming, normalcy-cramp. All that is the norm, has become 99.9% of literature. Those who expect roaring laughter from a literary book, and not once or twice per book but once or twice per page – they have landed in the wrong era.

But for me, that is precisely not literature. That’s why I was all the happier to hear people to whom I gave Flierman’s Passage laughing with great regularity. And I’m also very glad that I’ve understood what a farce Dutch literature has become, or has always been.

They themselves, however, have a different opinion about that. You have to dose the laughter correctly. And the right dose is? Two affable smiles per book. That is how it should be.

Whether a giant cactus will grow somewhere after my death, I do not know. What I do know is that it will not be announced anywhere, that nobody will mourn my disappearance. Good thing, you don’t want to be next to Steve Jobs and (Tjee – I’ve literally forgotten the name of this fake writer!) – well, you don’t want to become a Hero of the Hollow Calorie after all – you’d rather literally eat the cactus.

In the meantime, the whinging goes on. Ionica Smeets, Breukers or van Willigenburg: they keep pretending that this is what ‘the higher-ups’ are supposed to do, they may scold a bit but nobody dares to say that this is simply not literature. They keep pretending that this must be the higher stuff. And that is because to these people literature is essentially just a game, a game meant to have cosy meetings about.

For those for whom the difference between ‘good’ and ‘genius’ does not consist of an abyss but of a few clear-cut numbers on a piece of paper, literature will always be an entertaining game. And then you are dead, and nothing special will remain, but what a laugh you’ve had with all those trivial books in that game!

Reality check

In reality, however, there are only two modi operandi in art: humour and tragedy. Where a book fails to make you laugh twice every page, it may be one that manages to make you cry every other page.

But books that do not provoke any physical reaction? Higher literature? Bitch, please. That would be a total break with the whole corpus that the canon is based on. Books that are good because they deal with a certain theme. Books that are fun because you can give them to a student as a present.

Mountains, giants and mushrooms – in this fairytale-like collection, magic whirls and swirls, yet another reality breaks through as well – the whole world turned into The Shining, and the pilgrimage to Szymborska’s grave, a simple stone in Krakow, fails at the last minute; a journey without check marks across sixteen national borders to his daughter, however, succeeds. In its combination of fairy-tale nature, historical background and eerily topical reality, this collection of poems is Benders’ best since he lost count.

 

You have no time to read this, but that is because you are no longer human. If something of the original person were still alive in you, the old mycelia of childhood, then you would learn a lot from this book, indeed, with its magical knowledge, it might become your most useful possession. A book about the human imagination, and how it managed to get into the iron grip of trans-dimensional cockroaches. Furthermore, there are also magical tips to substantially improve your life and your time acceleration, and M.H.H. Benders also makes light-hearted mincemeat of the entire Dutch literature, what more could you want!

If you don’t want to crawl around mars like a cyber insect under a scrubbed boot – which is on the agenda – then you’d do well to read this book.

The first collected work of Martinus Hendrikus Hogervorst-Benders comprises no fewer than 712 pages and weighs in at least 1.4 kilos in thin print. It is the most ambitious collection written in the last thirty years, and certainly one of the highlights of Dutch literature as a whole, in line with Snoek and van de Woestijne. Anyone with a heart for literature and who wants to read an ambitious book brimming with cast-iron poems instead of yet another typical Dutch-language ‘masterpiece’ will be delighted with the purchase of this brick.

The Microdose Bible is the worlds most comprehensive and complete oversight of mind altering substances, teacher plants and mushrooms. Dutch mycologist and philosopher M.H.H.Benders takes you on a magical journey full of wonder about what teachers nature has to offer. Includes the Psychosupersum, a guide that describes all known mental disorders and offers wisdom for their treatment. 

This book will be published end of 2022.