Ter Braak, Menno 1902–1940

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Ter Braak, Menno 1902–1940

PERSONAL: Born 1902, in Eibergen, Netherlands; committed suicide, May 14, 1940, in The Hague, Netherlands; son of a physician. Education: Attended University of Amsterdam 1921–26; earned doctoral degree, 1928.

CAREER: Writer, editor, and critic. Forum (literary journal), founder, 1931–35; Het Vaderland (journal), literary editor, 1933–40; Dutch Film-Liga, founder. Briefly worked as a teacher.


Kaiser Otto III: ideal und Praxis im frühen Mittelalter, J. Clausen (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1928.

Afscheid van domineesland, A.A.M. Stols (Brussels, Belgium), 1931.

De absolute film, W. L. en J. Brusse (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 1931.

Man tegan man, A. A. M. Stols, 1931.

Démasqué der schoonheid, Nijgh & Van Ditmar (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 1932, reprinted, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1962.

Het carnaval der burgers, een gelijkenis in gelijkenissen (title means "The Carnival of Citizens"), Nijgh & Van Ditmar (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 1934.

Van oude en nieuwe Christenen (title means: "Of Old and New Christians"), Nijgh & Van Ditmar (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1937, reprinted, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1968.

In gesprek met de vorigen, Nijgh & Van Ditmar (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 1938, reprinted, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1963.

Het tweede gezicht (essays), Folemprise (Gravenhage), 1938, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1963.

De Augustijner monnik en zijn trouwe duivel, A. A. M. Stols ('s-Gravenhage, Netherlands), 1945.

De duivelskunstenaar; een studie over S. Vestdijk, L. J. Veen (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1945.

De nieuwe elite, A. A. M. Stols (Brussels, Belgium), 1945.

Journaal 1939, De Bezige Bij (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1945.

Over waardigheid en macht: politiek-cultureele kroniek, De Bezige Bij (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1945.

Reinaert op Reis: Essays, A. A. Balkema (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1946, reprinted, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1967.

In gesprek met de onzen, Nijgh & van Ditmar (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 1946, reprinted, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1964.

Sans famille. Drei brieven over een hedendaagsch vraagstuk, De Bezige Bij (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1947.

Briefwisseling ter Braak-Du Perron; een bloemlezing, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1949.

Over Menno ter Braak, Hasselt (Heedeland, Netherlands), 1949.

Verzameld werk (collected works), G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1949.

Over Multatuli, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1950.

(With Willem Anthony Paap) Vincent Haman: met een inleiding van Menno ter Braak, Querido (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1954.

Dr. Dumay verliest, N. V. de Arbeiderspers (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1955.

Hampton Court, Nijgh & Van Ditmar (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1959.

Politicus zonder partij (title means "Politician without a Party"), G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1960.

Menno ter Braak, De Bezige Bij (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1961.

Briefwisseling 1930–1940, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1962–1967.

Afscheid van domineesland; Man tegen man; een keuze, G. A. van Oorschot (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1965.

Het verraad der vlaggen, Querido (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1967.

De Propria Curesartikelen, 1923–1925, BZZTôH ('s-Gravenhage, Netherlands), 1978.

(With Francis Bulhof) De artikelen over emigranten literatuur, 1933–1940, BZZTôH ('s-Gravenhage, Netherlands), 1980.

De draagbare Ter Braak, edited by Eep Francken, Prometheus (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1992.

Het leven op aarde, Querido (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1992.

Kaas, Querido (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1994.

Cinema militans, Reflex (Utrecht, Netherlands), 1995.

(With Michel ven Nieuwstadt) De verschrikkingen van het denken: over Menno ter Braak, Historische Uitgeverij (Groningen, Netherlands), 1997.

De canon: Nederlandse cultuur in veertig portretten, edited and with introduction by Léon Hannsen, J. M. Meulenhoff (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Menno ter Braak was born in 1902 in Eibergen, the Netherlands, the son of a well-to-do protestant physician. He attended primary school in Eibergen, and then went to the larger city of Tiel for the Dutch equivalent of high school. During his elementary school years, he was physically small and weak compared to his classmates, and he consoled himself by thinking that when he went on to the high school, surely intelligence, rather than athletic ability, would be respected. He was disappointed to find out that in Tiel, too, the other students had more respect for physical strength than mental strength. According to E. M. Beekman in Contemporary Literature, ter Braak once commented: "One was judged according to one's worth as a sportsman; and as a sportsman I was worth very little." He had contempt for his more athletic peers, and also looked down on the people he associated with: "pale, shy, bespectacled outcasts, disliked and pestered … I felt humiliated when I was walking with them." In the last two years of school, however, even the athletes began to realize they needed to learn, and he felt triumphant when the former "gods" of the school had to meekly listen to the more academically inclined "outcasts."

Ter Braak briefly considered studying theology, but by the time he went to the University of Amsterdam in 1921 he had already discarded that idea in favor of studying history and Dutch literature. While at the university, he became the editor of the student periodical Propria Cures, in which he wrote articles against a student religious group. His first real publications were in the periodical De Vrije Bladen. Following his education, he briefly worked as a teacher. In 1927 he and some friends founded the Dutch Film-Liga, a group devoted to cinematography.

After studying in Berlin, he earned his doctoral degree in 1928, writing a dissertation on Emperor Otto III (reigned 980–1002). As Beekman noted, this work set the tone for many of ter Braak's later writings, since it combined an idealistic dream, in this case Otto's desire for a nation ruled by God's law, with historical reality. This duality of dream and reality would later appear in Het carnaval der burgers, een gelijkenis in gelijkenissen and in Van oude en nieuwe Christenen. In 1931 he and his friend Edgar Du Perron founded a literary journal, Forum, which attracted a great deal of attention. In 1933 he became editor of the journal Het Vaderland, a position he held until his death in 1940. For this journal, he wrote many book reviews and analyses of literature, politics, and society.

Ter Braak was known as one of the most brilliant and serious anti-fascists of his time and was devoted to his political cause. As fascism and Nazism grew throughout Europe during the 1930s, he continually attacked their political and social beliefs. He studied the life and work of Adolf Hitler and so was perhaps more prepared than most for the upcoming horrors of World War II. When the Netherlands surrendered to invading German forces during World War II, on May 14, 1940, ter Braak realized that he was in great danger from them. Rather than wait for the Germans to execute him, he committed suicide. In European Context: Studies in the History and Literature of the Netherlands Presented to Theodore Weevers, P. F. Vincent wrote that his suicide "robbed Dutch literature of a penetrating and influential critic of established artistic, cultural, and political values, who throughout the previous decade had been for many … its 'conscience.'"



Bede, Jean-Albert, and William B. Edgerton, editors, Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, second edition, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1980, p. 110.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999, pp. 322-323.

King, P. K., P. F. Vincent, and J. H. van Roijen, European Context: Studies in the History and Literature of the Netherlands Presented to Theodore Weevers, Modern Humanities Research Association (Cambridge, England), 1971, pp. 362-385.

Shetter, William Z., and Inga Van der Cruysse, editors, Contemporary Explorations in the Culture of the Low Countries, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1995.


Contemporary Literature, summer, 1968, E. M. Beekman, "The Critic and Existence: An Introduction to Menno ter Braak," pp. 377-393.

De Nieuwe Taalgids, March, 1987, "De contemporaine kritiek op Menno ter Braaks: Hampton Court," pp. 125-139.

Neohelicon: Acta Comparationis Litterarum Universarum, Volume 20, issue 2, 1993, Judit Gera, "Béla Baláza and Mennot ter Braak," pp. 313-322.

Spektator, June, 1990, Nel van Dijk, "Ter Braak als literairpolitiek strateeg: over de herwaardering van Elsschot," pp. 183-194.

Spiegel der Letteren, Volume 12, 1970, R. Henrard, "Menno ter Braak: Facetten van zijn maatschappelijke integratie als schrijver," pp. 132-145; Volume 20, 1978, Dina van Berlaer-Hellemans, "Twee romans uit de Forum-tijd: Hampton Court en Het land van Herkomst: Deel I: Hampton Court," pp. 241-256; Volume 21, 1979, Dina van Berlaer-Hellemans, "Twee romans uit de Forumtijd: Hampton Court en Het land van Herkomst: Deel II: Het land van Herkomst: Het Wonderlijke fatum van het Individualisme," pp. 3-25.

Tirade September-December, 1985, "Een jieuwjaarsmeditatie van ter Braak," pp. 778-796.


SM&C (Dutch), http://www.smc.nl/ (October 17, 2005), profile of author in Dutch.