The Transfer of 19th Century Representations of Unsafety: Dutch Adaptations of Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris

Activity: Talk or presentation typesTalk or presentation (not at a conference)Academic


In the history of 19th century city novels Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de
Paris, published as a serial in 1842-43, is of crucial importance. Through
Sue’s novel a large group of readers came into contact with the poor
neighborhoods of the Parisian metropolis. To many of them this world
was as exotic as the sphere of life of the native Americans in James
Fenimore Coopers’ The Last of the Mohicans (1826), the work by which
Sue, according to himself, was inspired. Les Mystères de Paris nowadays
Cultural Perceptions of Safety Abstracts
30. 31.
Cultural Perceptions of Safety Abstracts
tells us probably more about 19th century citizens’ fear of an unknown
underworld and of an unsafe city than about the daily life in the slums
of that period.
As almost everywhere else in the western world Sue’s example was
followed in the Netherlands in the form of translations, adaptations
and imitations. Critics even wrote about a ‘Verborgenheden-rage’
(‘Mysteries’-hype). In my lecture I would like to discuss how Sue’s
representation of a Parisian underworld was transferred to a Dutch
context, for instance in Johan de Vries’ De verborgenheden van
Amsterdam (1844, The Mysteries of Amsterdam). How did the literature
of the Dutch Sue-followers relate to the debate on criminality, hygiene,
prostitution et cetera? Is there an interaction between the literary and
non-literary discourse on the safety of 19th century cities?
Period21 Jan 2021
Degree of RecognitionInternational