The Rosenthaliana's Jacob Israel de Haan Archive
THAT THE ARCHIVE OF Jacob Israel de Haan still exists can be attributed
to the poet's unexpected and violent death at the age of 42. It was not
De Haan's habit to keep things. He destroyed almost all of the letters
written to him, writes his biographer Jaap Meijer.'He begged his friends
to do likewise with his letters. Luckily for us, they did not always do
as he requested.' Luckily indeed, for De Haan was a tireless as well as
an open-hearted correspondent. In the literary estates of some Dutch authors,
series of letters from him have been saved which reveal his personal and
poetic life almost as a historical novel. Letters to De Haan, however,
seldom appear, as is the case with manuscripts of his creative and academic
work. Evidently, he believed that once a work is printed, all the preparatory
stages should disappear.
This makes what remains of the archive of De Haan at the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana all the more valuable. The vicissitudes of this archive show, according to Ludy Giebels, who compiled an inventory in the early 1980s, a remarkable parallel with his restless and tragic life:
'As we know, De Haan was murdered in 1924 because of his anti-Zionist stand in Jerusalem. The then Dutch consul, Jacobus Kann, sealed the deceased's house and made an inventory of its contents on the order of the British authorities. Via the Dutch Foreign Ministry this inventory was brought to a lawyer who had to settle the estate. According to a report of the late professor Isaak Kisch his father brought De Haan's papers and books to the Netherlands when he visited Palestine in 1925. The books were auctioned and the papers were handed over to his widow, Johanna van Maarseveen. She came into contact with David Koker, who was both a radical Zionist and a great admirer of De Haan's literary works, in the 1930s. De Haan's papers were at this time either given to Koker as a gift by Johanna van Maarseveen or loaned to him for his use. From Vught he gave the documents to his friend Karel van het Reve for safekeeping. After it was learned that Koker had not survived the war, Van het Reve gave them to the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana as he thought Koker would have intended.'
Giebels based this partially on a letter dated 5 September 1946 from
Karel van het Reve to I.L. Seeligmann, then curator of the Rosenthaliana.
In this letter Reve wrote that from Vught Koker had brought him into contact
with Johanna van Maarseveen in an attempt to ensure that the writings De
Haan had left would survive. Because Johanna van Maarseveen had recently
died, Reve offered - more or less assuming the role of literary executor
of 'the whole lot' to the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana. In a way Van het Reve
acted in this regard in the spirit of De Haan himself. De Haan had already
given the publication manuscript of his collection Het Joodse Lied /
Tweede Boek (The Jewish Song, the second volume) to the Bibliotheca
Rosenthaliana in 1921.
The extent to which the archive in its current state corresponds to what was discovered in Jerusalem directly after De Haan's death will be shown by future research. Its limited scope, four boxes of handwritten material, and three with copies and newspaper clippings, gives credence to Meijer's statement that De Haan was not one to save things. The contents of the archive are varied and reflect an active and creative spirit, who was struck down in the middle of his creative output.
Not much light has been shed on De Haan's personal life. The correspondence contains only a few letters from his wife or family. A dozen or so date from before 1919. The business letters all come from 1923. Of interest for academic research are the notes of the law lectures which De Haan gave at the University of Amsterdam and the Law School in Jerusalem. The notebooks with drafts and subjects of hundreds of published and unpublished poems, mostly quatrains, could be a source for a future edition of De Haan's poetry.
A superficial first exploration of the almost indecipherable handwriting of De Haan reveals that the new quatrains carry on the resigned /complaining tone of the published specimens. To close with an example:
Het oogenblik: waarin miljoenen stralen
Zich vereenigen en breken vaneen.
De Eeuwigheid kan zich zelve nooit herhalen
Alles wisselt, maar 't blijft wisselend één.
(The moment: in which millions of rays
unite and break apart.
Eternity can never repeat itself
Everything changes, but in changing, remains one.)
Jaap Meijer, De zoon van een gazzen. Het leven van jacob Israël
de Haan 1881 - 1924 (Amsterdam 1967).
Ludy Giebels, 'De archivalia in de Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Studia Rosenthaliana 20 (1986) p. 200 - 209.
Ludy Giebels, Inventaris van het Archief van Jacob Israël de Haan in the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam (Amsterdam 1994).