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This report is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

Letter from Rotterdam Yann Lovelock
Parts of Amsterdam look much as they did in the high days of the 17th century and, taking the train south, it is not difficult - despite motorways and pylons - to spot scenes from Ruysdael, Cuyp, or a host of lesser artists. It took the Nazi invasion to shatter Dutch conservatism and even now memory dies hard. The nation only forgave the Germans after the recent football victory. Going on to win the European Championship completely transformed them. "Our royal family has never been greeted with so much orange," one of my friends remarked.

It did attendance figures at this summer's Rotterdam Poetry International no good at all. What is such an event, the most prestigious of its kind in Europe, doing there anyway? Walking through the pedestrian shopping precincts, with occasional vistas of what remains of the old town, one is reminded of Coventry. Both suffered similarly. In 1940 Plaats stands Zadkine's moving memorial in his noble later style. The enormous body pivots on its legs and strains its arms upwards, the whole centre of the torso torn out; seen from one angle, that space has the shape of a bomb.

Where are you to go after your borders have been violated and the past's heart smashed? Certainly not back into isolation. Some of the old generation tried and were promptly swept aside by the young, internationalist in outlook, hungry for the new, the breaking down of all barriers. During the sixties a group from ...


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