Charlotte Mutsaers

Sea Pine

Sparkling and enchanting essays by one of Holland’s most original authors

Zeepijn is a lively book of sparkling, narrative essays about the sea, pine trees, fish, and fir cones, father, mother, Francis Ponge and Henri Michaux, Christmas and Ostend, the village on the Belgian coast where Mutsaers spent part of her life. It consists of thirty-six short chapters, which assume almost as many different forms. Charlotte Mutsaers’s highly commended, associative and very personal writing style makes Zeepijn a strange and agreeable adventure for the reader.

These are short essays, reflections alternating with drawings, poems, dialogues, observations, letters, anecdotes, jokes and personal memories. With the help of two themes (her fascination for the sea and for pine trees), Mutsaers sets out her own trail, which she then proceeds to follow. She pursues small clues (a gift she once bought for her husband, a stretch of forest from a book by Ponge, a drawing of a Christmas tree she made as a girl) and each time she discovers a piece of the mosaic of her own universe, which enables her better to interpret it.

With great dexterity and by means of association she follows the thoughts recalled by objects and instances and the images which these conjure up: her first Christmas party, the expressive artists Ensor and Spilliaert, a holiday at the beach, the blast-furnaces, a display of shells, a festive bonfire of Christmas trees. Every one of these images sets Mutsaers’ joyful, agile mind working. For Mutsaers, imagination is a weapon against the disenchantment or the ‘depoetization’ of adulthood.

Knowledge, political correctness, the destruction of the environment, the spirit of the age, and, especially the realisation of impermanence, are all harsh disenchanters which Mutsaers has experienced at first-hand. All have their repercussions on human zest for life, making people melancholy. ‘What’s the point, I’m going to die anyway,’ she thought as a young girl, after her grandfather’s death. She writes a moving description about how the sea has enabled her to become reconciled to death - in so far as such reconciliation is possible. Mutsaers loves life and art. It fills her with enthusiasm and joy. In Zeepijn every page bursts with love for life.

It is Mutsaers’ unremitting and provocative tenacity which has given us Hazepeper, Kersebloed, Paardejam and now Zeepijn, each one full of refreshingly written essays, by an unparalleled talent.

Vrij Nederland

A superb book by a great writer.


One can only admire a collection which manages to achieve what every essayist must hope for: to kindle enthusiasm both for her own work and for that of others.

de Volkskrant

What shall we call this genre? The way Mutsaers allows her imagination such free range makes her writing so personal and so intractable, that existing definitions are inadequate. I therefore propose the following variety of genre: Zeepijn as the first ‘charlottesque’ in world literature.

NRC Handelsblad

Charlotte Mutsaers

Charlotte Mutsaers (b. 1942) is an author and visual artist who has published five novels and several collections of essays and poetry. Best known for her novels Rachels rokje ([Rachel’s Skirt], 1994) and Koetsier Herfst ([Coachman Autumn], 2009), she has won numerous literary awards, including…

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Zeepijn (1999). Fiction, 254 pages.
Copies sold: 12,500


De Bezige Bij

Van Miereveldstraat 1
NL - 1071 DW Amsterdam
Tel: +31 20 305 98 10
Fax: +31 20 305 98 24

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