“He invaded poetry like Genghis Khan. His scorched verses crushed the serfs and left them trembling with fear and awe. And then he went silent. He spent the next seven years thinking about the world and words. And now comes Idyllen: a tidal wave of salty questions and dark conclusions that swell in the sea at night while the abandoned sloops creak in the harbour and fishermen’s nets weep. In the classical form of rhyming alexandrine verse rolling in and out like waves over pebbles, Idyllen steadily washes away more and more certainties. Winter comes. These are probably the last idylls we shall ever read.
After years of stylistic shifts, Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer has returned as a poet with a long-awaited collection that became an instant classic of Dutch poetry.”
With Idyllen (Idylls), critically acclaimed poet and novelist Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer attempts to reach higher ground. This large volume of poems leaves the more experimental forms that Pfeijffer explored in the past behind; the book consists of 50 long cantos in thundering alexandrines.
‘Pfeijffer fuses all his poetical power, desire and mastership in Idyllen’, this year’s jury report states. ‘These poetic outpourings render a mourning poet’s elegy about the downfall of poetry and the world. With a large amount of bravado, that is surprisingly alternated by moving insightful moments, Pfeijffer elaborates on his views on society and the art of writing poetry. This book is filled with merry discoveries, deep and extremely banal thoughts, elaborate allusions to the poetic tradition, sizzling metaphors and a truly eccentric poetical standpoint. This collection sings, creaks, fables, dreams and is permeated by a poet’s unstoppable dream’.
Throughout this rumbling and lyrical book, Pfeijffer meditates on larger questions by paying attention to the smallest observations. ‘These Idylls are primarily a farewell to the idyllic, fully aware of finiteness and transiency: “And what I wrote or said, is suavely erased by the waves of the sea. And at the end murmurs the murmuring of the sea”‘.