Gitta's Literary Escapades

Just another reader taking on (modern) classics, best-sellers, award-winners, non-fiction, and (guilty pleasure) chicklit armed with common sense, a brain and feminism.

In Lucia's Eyes (Een schitterend gebrek) by Arthur Japin

Een schitterend gebrek - Arthur Japin

I've always felt you should read a book in its original language if you can. This is why I abruptly stopped reading Dutch books when I was 15 and only read English, starting with Harry Potter. However, after having completed a BA in English literature, I do feel that I've neglected the literature of fatherland. Arthur Japin's Een schitterend gebrek, or In Lucia's Eyes, is, therefore, the first work of fiction written in Dutch I have touched in over seven years!


In the English speaking world, readers are used to reading 18th and 19th century works of fiction and they are more acquainted with the vocabulary used by authors such as Dickens and Austen. However, in the Netherlands (and possibly Belgium), our classics are less popular and we are therefore not necessarily familiar with the archaic language Japin employs. What comes across in the beginning as replacing all the words of Germanic origin with their Latinate synonyms in an attempt to enrich the Dutch language, eventually embellishes the scene Japin is trying to portray. His attempt to mimic the language used in the higher social milieus in 18th-century Italy, France and Holland and the entire book embraces the Enlightenment idea of knowledge and science. Moreover, the Latinate diction is more closely related to Italian, which contains many Latinisms to this day.


This romance novel is somewhat unusual in the sense that the romance genre is often synonymous to the so called chick-lit. The latter is filled with soliloquies about whether or not the lover's relationship is the right thing to do, a breakup and more drama (the typical YA romance). In Lucia's Eyes, however, contains very little of that. It also isn't a romance like those written by Austen, the Brontë sisters or Dickens. The character of Lucia is very rational and Japin does not engage her in many sentimental and romantic scenes. The story is mostly sad and lacks an cliché ending any Hollywood producer or chick-lit-author would certainly have used. Instead, Lucia comes out as more memorable, respectable and stronger than the book's most famous character: Giacomo Casanova.

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