Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

THE REBEL GENERATION, by Johanna van Ammers-Küller, was the first volume of one of the author’s two trilogies dealing with Dutch family life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though not a success in its native country, this particular novel received worldwide attention and was a best-seller in several languages. What the reader sees in the novel is a series of portraits of strong-willed men and women who are related more by ideas and behavior than by the obvious familial connection. Ammers-Küller, though not a strictly feminist writer, has portrayed the struggle of women for equality in a way that blends in well with her overall picture of Dutch manners and morals of the era. She has perhaps not been listed with some of the great feminist writers of the early part of this century, however, for while she beautifully illustrates women’s struggle for equality, she also shows how at least one generation of the Cornvelt family reversed the trend by their own desires.

One of the flaws of the book which strikes the modern reader is that the author has sacrificed imaginative writing for her message. Plot, characterization, and even to some extent setting are all subservient to the main theme of rebellion within three generations of one Dutch family. Her lack of subtlety will not bring her into the forefront of great writers of the twentieth century, and her faltering feminism will not allow her to be totally accepted as a champion of women’s liberation either. What Ammers-Küller will be remembered for is her solid novel of Dutch middle-class life, something which has not been overdone and is little known outside the Netherlands.

THE REBEL GENERATION is usually considered Ammers-Küller’s greatest success. It has been translated into several languages and has had a successful production on the stage.