- Category : 1905-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Split - Small (6,21,25)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Uncertainty 1
Achterberg was raised in a poor Calvinist family as the third child of nine children. He father was the coach man of count Lynden van Sandenburg, but later with the advent of the automobile became a farmer. Achterberg was born in the coach house of Sandenburg castle.
On 1 April 1911 he went to the elementary school, where he excelled in all subjects except behaviour and diligence. He visited the Normal School in Wijk bij Duurstede and Utrecht, staying with an uncle who was a pipefitter (Ballad of the gas fitter). On 19 June 1924 he did exam and in the same year he became a primary school teacher in the small village Opheusden.
In Opheusden he met Arie Jacobus Dekker (b.1901) who acquainted him with literature and stimulated him writing poetry. In 1924 they conjointly published "De zangen van twee twintigers" (The songs of two persons in the twenties), a poetry bundle that he later considered an innocent youth sin.
In september 1924 Achterberg met his later wife Johanna Catharina van Baak (1908). They fell in love and engaged. The name Catharina, from the Greek "katharos" means pure and Achterberg would call her "the pure one" in the bundle Morendo (1944), named after a musical term that refers to decrescendo and dying. In November 1924 Achterberg was called to arms, but he got delay as he was still studying to become a school master. In a quarrel with the father of Catharina, he drew a pistol, threatened to shoot himself and thus ended his first engagement. From now on, the theme sexuality changed in lost love and death, but in his real life he would remain an impulsive and emotionally immature stalker of woman.
In 1925 he sent his poems to the Protestant poet, writer and editor of "Opwaartsche Wegen" Roel Houwink (Breda, 17 jan 1899 - Zeist, 3 june 1987), who would become his mentor. In January 1927 he was again called to military services, but a month later he was rejected for military service because of "sickness of the soul".
He was madly obsessed with the desire to be united with a beloved in death ("Achter het einde" ). His second poetry bundle Afvaart (1931) and actual début deals with this theme. "Afvaart" can hint to departure, sailing away, but has like the German word "Abfahrt" many other meanings.
Achterberg was an introverted loner, who balanced between geniality and madness. He malfunctioned at school, did not end his study for school teacher, as he found poetry the most important thing in life. He published individual poems in De Gids, Opwaartsche Wegen, and Groot Nederland. In September 1930 count Lynden van Sandenburg helped him to get another job as a school master in the Paul Krugerschool in The Hague.
He tried a relation with Bep van Zalingen (1909), the sister of a colleague of him in Opheusden. He physically abused Bep when she told him she was pregnant. After an abortion (taboo then), she ended the relation. He stalked and threatened her for years untill she moved to another place. The name Bep means bright and shining. Bep received little support at that time: Because of shame and guilt, nobody spoke about this kind of agressive behaviour.
Om 13 March 1932 he did confirmation for the Dutch Reformed Church under some pressure of his Christian school in The Hague. But he landed into a spiritual crisis after a broken relation, problems at work and the poor selling and rejection of his poetry.
The school decided that he had to visit a psychiatrist and sent him home. On 16 November 1932 his father brought him to a mental hospital in Utrecht. When released from hospital he meets Catharina again, but he desires Bep. In april 1933 he resigned from school, bought a pistol from a prostitute and went to search Bep. The police arrested him and sent him to the psychiatric clinic Willem Arntszhoeve in Den Dolder.
His friend Houwer helped him to get out of the clinic and not much later he engages with Annie Kuiper (1901), a merciful nurse that he met in Den Dolder. On 21 August 1934 het gets an administrative job as a civil servant at the Crisis Cattle Centrale at Utrecht. In Utrecht he meets landlady Roel van Es (1897) en her daughter Bep. On 10 February 1935 he rents a room from her in the Boomstraat and also gets a relation with her with knowledge of Annie Kuiper.
On 15 December 1937 he wounded Bep van Es and shot his landlady Roel van Es, after he tried to rape the 16 years old Bep. He went to the police, told what happened, was arrested, judged and send to the forensic Asylum for Psychopaths in Avereest.
Here he would write his major work. In 1939 he published "Eiland der ziel" (Island of soul), in 1940 "Dead end", in 1941 "Osmose" and in 1941 "Thebe".
His psychiatrist Dr. A.L.C. Palies fascilitated a transfer to the Christian Rekkensche forensic clinic in Eibergen. From December 1942 to August 1943 he stayed sanatorium 'Rhijngeest' in Oegstgeest. Later in and after the war he lived in foster homes, enabling him to meet other people, like his first love Cathrien van Baak, Hoornik, Bloem and Vestdijk. Hoornik and Vestdijk helped him to get free in 1945.
On 27 June 1946 he married Johanna Catharina van Baak. That year he is very productive and writes five bundles: "Stof: (matter), "Radar", "Sphinx", "Energie" and "Existentie". But when Catharina in 1947 becomes pregnant, he got a nervous breakdown needing a few days of hospitalisation. The child was born in August, but survived only some hours. Achterbergs writes "Kindergraf": "Hier ligt het grafje met de zoden glad. Het is het sluitstuk na een kort ontwaken: een meter aarde om gelijk te maken, wat voor een ogenblik verheffing had."
Achterberg got many awards.
1946 - Pinksterprijs for "Radar"
1949 - Poetry price of Amsterdam for "Afreis" (Abreis, departure)
1949 - P.C. Hooft-prijs for "En Jezus schreef in 't zand" (and Jesus wrote in the sand, referring to John 8)
1954 - Poetry price of Amsterdam for "Ballade van de gasfitter" (Ballad of the gasfitter)
1959 - Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire work.
On 17 January 1962 he died of a heart attack.
In 1988 Wim Hazeu published his biography.