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Gerard Kornelis van het Reve (born December 14, 1923 in Amsterdam, Netherlands – died April 8, 2006 in Zulte, Belgium) was a Dutch writer publishing first under the names Simon van het Reve, Darger Taveherven (an anagram) and his official name, although he became known as Gerard Reve. Together with W.F. Hermans and Harry Mulisch, he is considered one of the "Great Three" of Dutch post-war literature. His 1981 novel De vierde man was the basis for Paul Verhoeven's 1983 film.
Reve was one of the first public homosexuals in the Netherlands. He often wrote explicitly about sex between men, which many readers considered to be shocking. Another often-used theme was religion. Reve himself declared that the primary message in all of his work was salvation from the world of matter in which we live.
He often insisted that homosexuality was merely a motive in his work, the deeper theme being the inadequacy of human love (as opposed to divine love). From two earlier main works, "Op weg naar het einde" (Approaching the end) and "Nader tot U" (Nearer to Thee), on, he articulated his views on God's creation and the human fate, especially in the many collections of letters that he published. These writings stress symbolic understanding of religious texts as the only intellectually acceptable one, and the irrelevancy of the gospel's historical truth. Religion, according to Reve, has nothing to do with the literal, the factual, the moral or the political. It has no quarrel with modern science, because religious truths and empirical facts are in different realms. The observable world has no meaning beyond comparing facts, and, while revelation may not make sense, it has meaning, and it is this meaning what Reve is after in everything he writes.
Reve's erotic prose deals partly with his own sexuality, but aims at something more universal. Reve's work often depicts sexuality as ritual. Many scenes bear a sadistic character, but this is never meant as a purpose in itself. 'Revism', a self invented term, can roughly be described as consecrating sexual acts of punishment, dedicating these acts to revered others, and, ultimately, to higher entities (God). This is again a quest for higher significance in a human act (sex) that is devoid of meaning in its material form.
His style combined the formal with the colloquial, yet it was recognizably personal. Similarly, his humor and often paradoxical view of the world relied on the contrast between exalted mysticism and common sense. The irony that pervades his work, together with his tendency towards extreme statements, have caused confusion among readers. Many doubted the sincerity of his conversion to the Catholic faith, although Reve often protested his true faith, claiming his right to individual notions about religion and his personal experience of it.
Reve's literary career has been accompanied by a chain of incidents. Early on, the Dutch ministry of culture intervened when Reve was to receive a grant, on grounds of the obscene nature of his work.
A member of the Dutch senate, senator Hendrik Algra, spoke on the same subject in a plenary debate. And so started a string of scandals that didn't stop until the Belgian king Albert refused to hand out a literary prize to Reve when his partner had been charged with indecencies with minors. Reve sometimes welcomed the publicity, but also complained about his continuous struggle with authorities, public opinion and the press.
Infamous for breaking a rather archaic Dutch law against blasphemy in 1966, Gerard Reve was prosecuted for a piece of prose that describes the narrator's love-making to God, incarnated in a three year old donkey.
He converted to Roman Catholicism and was a very liberal Roman Catholic. His performances and ridiculisations of Catholicism lead to much tensions within the Roman Catholic community in the Netherlands of the 1960s.
Reve came from a communist background. A main theme, along with religion and love, is his intense hatred of communism, its regimes and the tolerance toward it in leftist circles in the west.
In 1975, he appeared at a Dutch poetry festival, wearing a swastika as well as a hammer and sickle symbol on his clothes, and read a poem that speaks of immigration in racist terms, in a mock-solemn language, that insulted many people, especially from Surinam. This event led to a lot of controversy, and many people have since wondered if Reve had lost his mind, or wanted to make a certain statement. Reve's own reactions were contradictory at best, and his claims of being 'too intelligent to be a racist' and never wanting to inflict any harm on any racial ground, partly got lost in the confusion inherent to his ever-present irony.
During the last years of his life, he began to suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and he succumbed to it on April 8, 2006 at the age of 82.
Gerard Reve is the brother of Karel van het Reve.
- De avonden (The evenings, 1947)
- Werther Nieland (1949)
- De ondergang van de familie Boslowits (The fall of the Boslowits family, 1950)
- Tien vrolijke verhalen (Ten happy stories, 1961)
- Vier Wintervertellingen (Four Winter Tales, 1963)
- Op weg naar het einde (Approaching the end, 1963)
- Nader tot U (Nearer to Thee, 1966)
- De taal der liefde (The language of love, 1972)
- Lieve jongens (Dear boys, 1973)
- Een circusjongen (A circus boy, 1975)
- Brieven aan kandidaat katholiek A. 1962-1969 (Letters to candidate Catholic A. 1962-1969, 1976)
- Oud en eenzaam (Old and lonely, 1978)
- Brieven aan Wimie (Letters to Wimie, 1980)
- Moeder en zoon (Mother and son, 1980)
- Brieven aan Bernard S. (Letters to Bernard S., 1981)
- De vierde man (The Fourth Man, 1981)
- Brieven aan Josine M. (Letters to Josine M., 1981)
- Brieven aan Simon C. 1971-1975 (Letters to Simon C. 1971-1975, 1982)
- Brieven aan Wim B. 1968-1975 (Letters to Wim B. 1968-1975, 1983)
- Brieven aan Frans P. 1965-1969 (Letters to Frans P. 1965-1969, 1984)
- De stille vriend (The silent friend, 1984)
- Brieven aan geschoolde arbeiders (Letters to educated workers, 1985)
- Zelf schrijver worden (Becoming a writer yourself, 1985)
- Brieven aan Ludo P. 1962-1980 (Letters to Ludo P. 1962-1980, 1986)
- Bezorgde ouders (Parents Worry, 1988)
- Brieven aan mijn lijfarts 1963-1980 (Letters to my personal physician 1963-1980, 1991)
- Brieven aan een aardappeleter (Letters to a potato eater, 1993)
- Op zoek (Searching, 1995)
- Het boek van violet en dood (The book of violet and death, 1996)
- Ik bak ze bruiner (I bake them browner, 1996)
- Brieven aan Matroos Vosch (Letters to Matroos Vosch, 1997)
- Het hijgend hert (The panting deer, 1998)
- http://www.glbtq.com/literature/reve_g.html (short biography)
- http://www.nadertotreve.nl/ (Dutch website)
- http://www.erikweijers.nl/pages/translations/literature/reves-raleigh.php (analysis and quotes, in English, of Old and lonely - the not yet translated 1978 book)
- http://www.klaaskoppe.nl/overzichtreve.htm (Photos)
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