Menno ter Braak

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Menno ter Braak
Menno ter Braak.jpg
Born(1902-01-26)January 26, 1902
Eibergen, Gelderland
Died May 14, 1940(1940-05-14) (aged 38)
The Hague
Nationality Dutch
Education University of Amsterdam
Occupation Author

Menno ter Braak (26 January 1902 14 May 1940) was a Dutch modernist author.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.


Early career

Ter Braak was born in Eibergen and grew up in the town of Tiel where he was an exemplary student. He went on to the University of Amsterdam where he majored in Dutch and History. He was a regular contributor to the student magazine Propria Cures and involved himself in the study of film (then a very young discipline).

Eibergen Place in Gelderland, Netherlands

Eibergen is a former municipality and a town in the eastern Netherlands in an area called Achterhoek. The administrative cooperation of about 20 municipalities in this region, is called Regio Achterhoek.

Tiel Municipality in Gelderland, Netherlands

Tiel is a municipality and a town in the middle of the Netherlands. The town is enclosed by the Waal river and the Linge river on the south and the north side, and the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal on the east side. The city was founded in the 5th century AD.

University of Amsterdam university in Amsterdam

The University of Amsterdam is a public university located in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The UvA is one of two large, publicly funded research universities in the city, the other being the VU University Amsterdam (VU). Established in 1632 by municipal authorities and later renamed for the city of Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam is the third-oldest university in the Netherlands. It is one of the largest research universities in Europe with 31,186 students, 4,794 staff, 1,340 PhD students and an annual budget of €600 million. It is the largest university in the Netherlands by enrollment. The main campus is located in central Amsterdam, with a few faculties located in adjacent boroughs. The university is organised into seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Science, Law, Medicine, and Dentistry.

Together with Joris Ivens, Menno ter Braak was also a founder of the Filmliga (Movie League), an organisation for the study of animated film. He completed a Ph.D. dissertation on the medieval emperor Otto III and consecutively worked as a teacher in a number of secondary schools.

Joris Ivens documentary filmmaker

Georg Henri Anton "Joris" Ivens was a Dutch documentary filmmaker. Among the notable films he directed or co-directed are A Tale of the Wind, The Spanish Earth, Rain, ...A Valparaiso, Misère au Borinage (Borinage), 17th Parallel: Vietnam in War, The Seine Meets Paris, Far from Vietnam, Pour le Mistral and How Yukong Moved the Mountains.

Forum movement

In 1932 ter Braak, together with Edgar du Perron and Maurice Roelants  (nl ), started the literary magazine Forum which proved to be one of the most important literary periodicals in the Dutch-speaking world (it expressly involved Flemish intellectuals as well) in the nineteen-thirties. Forum is widely considered a bulwark of cultural elitism, advocating a high cultural level of discourse, a rational form of literary criticism, consequent individualism and a stern disapproval of all intellectual ornamentation. “Vent boven vorm” (loosely translated: ‘personality over form’) was the catchword of the Forum movement, and Multatuli was one of its most important paragons.

Multatuli Dutch author

Eduard Douwes Dekker, better known by his pen name Multatuli, was a Dutch writer best known for his satirical novel Max Havelaar (1860), which denounced the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies. He is considered one of the Netherlands' greatest authors.

Political involvement

In 1933 ter Braak, then living in The Hague, joined the Dutch liberal daily Het Vaderland (the Fatherland) as a literary affairs editor and was one of the first Dutchmen to understand the looming threat of Nazism. It is in these years that he started het Comité van Waakzaamheid (the Committee for Vigilance). As a public intellectual, he is most famous for his essays, most of which deal with European culture, politics, or a mixture of the two. He is distinctly influenced by Nietzsche and his style is deliberately paradoxical.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party – officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party – in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar aims.

Later writing

In his last, and best-known essays he chastises those who would subject themselves to "higher" and "spiritual" values, unmasking the hierarchies behind those values who are working to further their own agenda. Against this subjection to extraneous authorities and false values, ter Braak posits the individualist ideal of the honnête homme, the "Man of Integrity" who will not conform himself to other people's expectations and systems.

A born polemicist, he managed to find himself a diverse group of opponents and by the end of his life had entered into polemics, some of which were hostile with the self-proclaimed representatives of what he considered to be "nebulous collectivisms" such as Catholicism, liberal humanism, Marxism and fascism.

A polemic is contentious rhetoric that is intended to support a specific position by aggressive claims and undermining of the opposing position. Polemics are mostly seen in arguments about controversial topics. The practice of such argumentation is called polemics. A person who often writes polemics, or who speaks polemically, is called a polemicist. The word is derived from Ancient Greek πολεμικός (polemikos), meaning 'warlike, hostile', from πόλεμος (polemos), meaning 'war'.

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. The term was coined by theologian Friedrich Niethammer at the beginning of the 19th century to refer to a system of education based on the study of classical literature. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. It views humans as solely responsible for the promotion and development of individuals and emphasizes a concern for man in relation to the world.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.


Towards the end of his life he became increasingly involved in the growing anti-fascist movement in the Netherlands. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 he fell into a deep depression. Four days after Nazi Germany had invaded the Netherlands, on 14 May 1940, after a failed attempt to flee to England, Menno ter Braak committed suicide in The Hague by using a sedative, combined with an injection (by his brother Wim ter Braak, who was a doctor) of poison.[ citation needed ] He died on the day the Luftwaffe carpet bombed his former hometown Rotterdam.

His influence remained fairly large and lasted well into the 1950s; during the fifties his influence began to wane but a number of literary periodicals, especially Libertinage and Tirade remained faithful to a number of ter Braak’s ideas.


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