Romanschrijven als artistic research. Modernisering volgens Antoon Coolen

Thomas Vaessens


One of the key figures in the post-war industrialization of the Netherlands is Hub van Doorne, founder of the DAF plant, in which a Dutch passenger car was produced in the period 1958-1976: the Daffodil. Although this influential Brabant industrialist has played an enormous role both locally and nationally, historians of culture have written little about him. What we know about Van Doorne is strongly influenced by the fairy-tale image of the self-made man, as has been brought to life in all kinds of hagiographic writings by family members, former employees and DAF’s publicity department. Yet there is one serious and detailed source about Van Doorne’s life and meaning in the period before he started producing his cars in his Eindhoven-based factory. That is Antoon Coolen’s novel De grote voltige (The Great Trick Riding, 1957). Coolen’s portrait of Van Doorne not only depicts depth and color on the known facts about the industrial, it also helps us to shed light on ongoing discussions about the ‘ownership’ of the modernization of the Netherlands in the post-war decades.

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