When the days get shorter and a cold wind blows outside, I like to curl up on the couch with a book. One of my favorites is ‘Old People and the Things That Pass’ by Louis Couperus. It’s a book I like to revisit regularly.
Louis Couperus in The Hague
Louis Couperus – a descendant of a long line of Colonial civil servants and administrators – was born in The Hague in 1863. When he was 9 years old, he moved with his family to Batavia in what were then the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia). He lived there for six years, the family returning to The Hague in 1878. In his later life he went back to the Dutch East Indies. He lived there for a year and travelled as a correspondent.
Couperus’ upbringing and experiences clearly inspired him when he wrote his so-called Colonial novels.
Strictly speaking ‘Old People and the Things That Pass’ is not a Colonial novel, because the story takes place in The Hague. But everything the main and other characters in the book do and think is influenced by events that occurred in the Dutch East Indies.
The book offers interesting insights into the complicated family relations and the sometimes oppressive social structures people were experiencing during the 19th century. Besides that, the book (often described as “psychological novel”) is quite thrilling – a real “page turner”. Although I think that this phrase was not yet in use in Couperus’ days…
Couperus can be quoted as saying: ‘If anything, I am a Hagenaar’. He was born in The Hague, lived there and his ashes are buried at Oud Eik en Duinen cemetery. But perhaps he expressed his roots best in the wonderful descriptions of this city in his book ‘Old People and the Things That Pass’.
If you would like to follow in the footsteps of Louis Couperus, schedule the Willemspark and Archipel walk. More info
* You will know the significance of this picture after you have read the book