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  • Together with Hermans and Mulisch, Reve was part of what is
    considered the top trio of post-war Dutch writers. In my
    opinion, Mulisch does not belong there, but that is entirely
    beside the point.

    Reve was a flamboyant homosexual and at the same time a
    conservative catholic, a stark contrast with his
    upbringing in an orthodox communist family. Fantasies
    involving sailors, merciless school boys, the virgin Mary
    and God appear in many of his books and letters.
    Not in this poem though, which he wrote for the nuns in the
    monastery next to the house where he lived at the time.

    Here's my translation (others can be found on the web)
    and the original Dutch version.


    Sister Immaculata who, for thirty four years, has been
    washing paralyzed old people, dressing
    and spoon-feeding them,
    will never see her name mentioned anywhere.

    But any unwashed monkey who blocks traffic waving a placard
    declaring that he is in favor of this or against that,
    will see his ugly face on TV that same evening.

    Good that there is a God.
    In Dutch:


    Zuster Immaculata die al vier en dertig jaar
    verlamde oude mensen wast, in bed verschoont,
    en eten voert,
    zal nooit haar naam vermeld zien.
    Maar elke ongewassen aap die met een bord dat hij
    voor dit, of tegen dat is, het verkeer verspert,
    ziet ’s avonds reeds zijn smoel op de tee vee.
    Toch goed dat er een God is.

    Of course, there is no evidence for any such thing as God,
    but I read it as a poem in praise of stoicism. It was first
    published in the early seventies. I wonder what an
    Internet-age version would look like.
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