In an election of the best book of 2016, a recent Dutch translation of the Bible ended up as #1. Not entirely unjustified, because the Bible has been important for the Dutch culture and language. The Statenvertaling (States Translation) from 1637 is generally regarded as the basis of standardized Dutch.
But if you would ask me for a list of books originally written in Dutch, I’d come up with something like this. In chronological order:
1. Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company – Multatuli (1860)
A protest against the colonial policy of the Netherlands in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) as well as a frame story with several layers as well as an impressive literary work with heartbreaking tales like Saïdjah and Adinda.
2. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank (published in 1947)
The world-famous diary of the Jewish girl Anne Frank. She wrote the diary hiding for the Nazi’s in Amsterdam. In August 1944 she, her family and other people are betrayed. Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 a few months before the end of the war.
3. The Evenings – Gerard Reve (1947)
The 10 last days of 1946 in the life of Frits van Egters, an office clerk in post war Amsterdam. A gloomy book about loneliness, fear and feelings of guilt.
4. Miffy – Dick Bruna (1950-2009)
Miffy: not one book, but an entire series of small square books for little children. Many Dutch people grew up with Miffy and can quote lines from the small books. In Holland we know her as Nijntje: little rabbit.
5. The Darkroom of Damocles – W.F. Hermans (1958)
The simple shopkeeper Osewoudt is trying his best to be a hero in World War II, just like his mysterious spitting image Dorbeck. But is Dorbeck really a hero? Does he actually exist? In wartime, there is only a thin line between good and evil.
6. Turkish Delight – Jan Wolkers (1969)
Reserveringsnummer 1449A tragic love story. Famous for the film adaptation by Paul Verhoeven with Rutger Hauer and music from Toots Thielemans. With the memorable scene in which the main characters cycle through Amsterdam and enter a store on the bike.
7. Tow-Truck Pluck – Annie M.G. Schmidt (1971)
Pluck, a kindhearted, young boy driving a red tow-truck finds a place to live on the top floor of the Petteflet, an apartment building. With his friends (both children, adults and animals) he prevents the nearby park from being destructed to make way for a parking lot. One of the most popular Dutch children’s books. Read an excerpt.
8. Out of Mind – Bernlef (1984)
Gripping story about Alzheimer’s. Because the protagonist is also the narrator, the language in the book is getting simpler and more and more confused towards the end.
9. The Tea Lords – Hella S. Haasse (1992)
About the rise and decline of a tea planter in Dutch East Indies. But also a story about the imminent end of colonialism.
10. My Father’s Notebook: A Novel of Iran – Kader Abdolah (2000)
An Iranian writer in exile tries to decipher his father’s manuscript and while doing this he tells the story about his father and about himself.