Louis Couperus’ Work

By many, Louis Couperus (1863-1923) is considered as one of the greatest writers that the Netherlands has produced. His work is now considered classic and it truly is a masterful picture of the fascinating world around 1900.


In his novels and stories, Louis Couoperus immortalized the stormy developments in the political, social, and cultural life of the fin de siècle. Couperus’ work is versatile and he is an author of many faces. His versatility is just as impressive as the scale of his work.

With an inexhaustible imagination, labor, and stylistic variety, he wrote psychological, mythological, and historical novels, stories, fairy tales, and poems. In his travelogues and serials, he also shows himself as a keen observant journalist.

Despite the fact that Couperus did not wish to be limited to one genre or style, his work is characterized by a number of themes that gives a solid character such as destiny, tragic premonition, and decay.


The fatal power of destiny is manifest in his work both “internally” (as a trait of temperament of the character: you are who you are by heritage and you can not change that) and “externally”, as a misunderstood, unknowable, mysterious, sometimes above-worldly power, against which an individual (or generation, culture, or epoch) ultimately has no defense.

Fate as a decisive power is still working on multiple levels in Couperus’ work. Not only the characters (and sometimes the narrator) think and talk about fate (often in the form of foreboding), also at a more abstract level, fatal events become evident in different ways. For example, it shows in ill-fated characters (characters to be entered as the embodiment of the fate), symbols, and suggestive for expulsions.

Comforting beauty

Although Couperus works are generally written from a fundamentally pessimistic view of life, he offers his characters and readers ‘escapes’: instead of torturing himself with the great questions of life (which do not dissolve), man better accept the futility of life and focus on the ‘now’ (the ‘seize the day’ motif), on which the present can offer him consoling beauty.

Louis Couperus is definitely one of Holland’s greatest, most prominent, and best-read writers. Couperus received much international acclaim as well predominantly in the English speaking part of the globe but the Germans respected his more scientific and historical works as well. In Great Britain, Couperus’ psychological work (e.g. “The silent force” or “Of old people and the things that pass”) earned much appreciation and acclaim and still do!

When in The Netherlands, you should really visit the Louis Couperus Museum. You can find this lovely museum in the Dutch city of The Hague. The museum is dedicated to conserving and promoting the works of Louis Couperus across the world.  in the Netherlands and across the globe.

Louis Couperus Museum, Javastraat 17, 2585 AB Den Haag, The Netherlands, Phone: (070) 364-0653

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