I noticed a pattern in a whirl of thoughts and finds the last days. I had just finished a story from an old book that I took from the shelves a couple of days ago. The book from 1886 is the 7th edition of the Prose of E.J. Potgieter (1808 -1875). I read the story ” ‘t Is maar een penelikker” in which he writes down his vision upon the people working in the offices and desks, copying letters, bookkeeping and doing all those tasks connected to the extensive paperwork that accompanies trade. His words paint a black and rather hopeless world of dependency, low wages and no social security. A gray mass of people who just try to survive. He ends with saying that it is good that the government now (1840) thinks about pensions for their employees but also that the Dutch should take an example of how things were in the golden age of the Dutch, the 17th century. There people dared to explore, they went out and discovered the world, (“without needing so much paperwork as nowadays”). So he concludes by saying that we should sent our young and ambitious people abroad to let them learn, exploit, start companies and bring honor and glory to themselves and their country.
I searched for his name on the internet and read a biography of E.J. Potgieter, an important name in Dutch literature because he was one of the founders and major contributor of “De Gids”, the leading, if not only, Dutch magazine about literature for decennia. The article was negative about his efforts to get some 17th century spirit into the people he wrote for, it said it never worked and it couldn’t work because he wrote too complicated, too intellectual, even using words that did not fit into the time he lived, or in a form that was too hard to appreciate. It was said that he created his own world and that in the end no one got permission to enter it, nothing was good enough.
The story was written in 1840, the same year where (thanks google) a man named Andries Henrik Potgieter became the leader of a colony in South Africa that he apparently named “Potchefstroom” after himself. I know virtually nothing about South-African history, but I do know it wasn’t a peaceful an uncomplicated one, and being a “voortrekker-leader” like Andries Henrik was probably not something to be favored either. So while one influential Potgieter wrote about creating opportunities abroad another Potgieter was doing so in practice, for whatever reason and with whatever consequences.
The writer Potgieter liked an intellectual use of language, even referring to 17th century Dutch, the South-African Potgieter spoke Afrikaans, a language that is spoken today by app. 6,5 mill. people in the south of the African continent and that is based upon Dutch dialects with influences that reach back to the 17th century.
So the story of one Potgieter seems to compliment the story of the other.
The search revealed a lot of Potgieters in South-Afrika and following one link I found and listened to videos of the South-African Band Glaskas. Great, and for me as a Dutchman it is very special to hear Afrikaans. I can thank the writer E.J. Potgieter for it, because his short story made me curious enough to search for his name.
This is my favourite: