Jan Jacob Slauerhoff
Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1898–1936) is one of the most frequently read Dutch writers of poetry and prose, he was also a general practitioner and sailed virtually all the sevens seas as an onboard physician. When he was not travelling, he was the locum physician in several places throughout Holland; for 32 days in 1929 he was the attending physician in the Frisian Beetsterzwaag.
People called him Jan and his pen name was J. Slauerhoff. Friends were known to call him Slau, and members of the student union ‘USA’, of which he had been a member during his student years called him ‘de Slau’. ‘USA’ did not have its own journal, but did release an almanac once a year. Slauerhoff published his poems ‘Absithe poťtique’ and ‘Egarement’ in the USA-almanak, using the cover name J.E..
In 1928 Slauerhoff published a book of poems ‘Oost-AziŽ’ using another name: John Ravenswood. In the preface Slauerhoff stated that Ravenswood had recently passed away, the story went: Through a detour Ravenswood had ended up on the Korean island of Quelpart, and wrote several poems there. He wished to publish, but was afraid if he did so under his own name, people would discover where he lived. He approached Slauerhoff with the request that the poems be published under his name. ‘He asked me to cover his verses with my name. He could not think of any other Dutch name to use.’ But when he passed away, Slauerhoff saw no objections to publishing them under the writer’s own name.
Everyone saw straight through this pseudonym and the story behind it. And why Slauerhoff felt the need to publish these poems under another name never became clear. Maybe because they were the first poems of his travels, and as such were different from his ‘normal’ oeuvre. Several poems from ‘Oost-AziŽ’ belong to the best he ever wrote.
After this, Slauerhoff never used the name Ravenswood again; he had initially planned to use it for a following ‘oriental’ book ‘Mo yan ke’. But eventually this book was published in 1930 entitled ‘Yoeng poe tsjoeng’ [Of Little Use] and in Slauerhoff’s own name. The first edition of ‘Yoeng poe tsjoeng’ did use the pages originally printed of ‘Mo yang he’, (with exception of the first signature), and the colophon still stated ‘poems by John Ravenswood, assembled by J. Slauerhoff’.
Hazu, W. (1995), Slauerhoff: een biografie, uitg. De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, pp.90–97
Ravenswood, J. (1928), Oost-AziŽ, De Gemeenschap MCMXXVIII, Utrecht, p.3
‘J. Slauerhoff’, Wikipedia, retrieved on 15 October 2013
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