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Nieuwe Zakelijkheid as Positioning Strategy: The Case of Albert Helman

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Chapter Summary

From the late 1920’s onwards, Dutch critics came to characterise the short stories of Albert Helman (1903-1996) as ‘modern’ and ‘sober’. In this contribution I will investigate what dimensions of Helman’s early essays, novels and stories can be laid bare when those works are read against the background of contemporary views on modern prose and Nieuwe Zakelijkheid (New Objectivity). I will focus successively on Nieuwe Zakelijkheid as a poetical and historiographical concept, the way critics linked Helman to tendencies towards a renewal of prose and the way the author positioned himself in the literary field, particularly with regard to the avant-garde movements. Helman’s critical and creative prose appears to be a crossroads of several poetical discourses. His conception of literature and his vision on Nieuwe Zakelijkheid stemmed from his religiously and socially inspired view on the relationship between the individual and society and his opposition against hegemonic ideologies such as religious orthodoxy and colonialism.



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