- Category : Beauty-Model
- Type : GP
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX The Alpha 2
Dutch born writer of French naturalistic literature, but also a former child prostitute and model of Belgian sculptors and painters.
Doff was born as the third of nine children in the poor family of the labourer Jan Doff (1828-1880) and Catharina Pacques (1828-1909), a lacemaker. Her alcoholic father changed jobs a lot and was often unemployed. For this the family had to move a lot and in 1864 the family settled in Amsterdam.
As an elder child Doff had to take care for her younger siblings. She also took jobs as a child: assisting in a pharmacy, selling pots and pans, runabout and as maiden in the household. So she had little opportunity to visit the "Stads Armenschool" (elementary school for poor children). But somehow she was at this "armen" school inspired by the great Dutch writer Multatuli; part of his work she would translate in French.
In 1873, she was only 15, her mother and sister persuaded her to prostitute herself on behalf of the family. When her autobiographical "Keetje tippel" (Keetje Trottin) trilogy was compared to the work of Émile Zola, she could honestly say: "He wrote about it, while I lived it".
In 1874 the family moved to Belgium in the hope to find more luck. Doff first worked in a plant in Antwerp. In 1875 she went to Brussel, where she posed as a model for artists like James Ensor, Félicien Rops, Edouard Agneessens, Charles Samuel and Paul de Vigne. She also worked again as a prostitute under the nickname "Emilie".
In one of the painters ateliers, at age 27, she met the two years younger Fernand Brouez (1861–1900). He was the founder and publisher of the socialistic La Société Nouvelle (The New Society). In 1885 they got a relationship that changed her life. He enabled and stimulated her eduction. He paid for five years her private lessons in the French, German and English languages, history, geography and enabled her visiting the conservatory. She first considered a career in the performing arts, but her environment stimulated her to become a writer.
In March 1887 she translated parts of Multatuli's Minnebrieven (Love Letters) for La Société Nouvelle.
On 1 December 1896 she married her supporter Fernand Brouez. It was an unhappy marriage. After some months they lived apart together. Maybe as a result of his wife's former occupation he died of syphilis in 1900. He was buried in the family vault at the Ixelles Cemetery on 3 July 1900.
On 4 May 1901 Doff married Georges Serigiers, a lawyer, social activist and house friend. They settled in Antwerp and had a country cottage in Genk.
Neel Doff had climbed the social ladder up from bitter misery and poverty to become a rich socialite in the higher artistic and intellectual Belgian circles, but she could not forget her past. In 1909, in her early fifties, while fighting a bad cold, she wept, grabbed a pen and paper and decided to write her autobiographical trilogy in French, her second language, that permitted her to take some distance from her sorrowful Dutch past.
Cornelia Doff has been called "The Dostojevski of the North" as the the character of Keetje (Etymological from Cornelia, Lat. cornu, horn) resembles Sonja in "Crime and Punishment". Like Raskolnikov's beloved Sonia, she had an intense life, delved deep into the dark and profane side of life and was forced into prostitution at an early age, but she never forgot her destiny or lost her faith.
The Keetje trilogy consisted of:
- Jours de Famine et de Détresse, Paris, Fasquelle, 1911 (Days of Hunger and Distress).
- Keetje, Paris, Ollendorf, 1919
- Keetje Trottin, Paris, Crès, 1921 (Keetje The Errand Girl)
"Jours de Famine et de Détresse" lost the Prix Goncourt of 1911 with one vote. Alphonse de Châteaubriant won the price with Monsieur des lourdines. The poet Laurent Tailhade was her greatest fan.
Other French original work of her hand:
- Michel, Crès, 1922
- Angelinette, Paris, Crès, 1923
- Campine, Paris, F. Rieder & Cie, Rieder 1926
- Elva, suivi de Dans nos bruyères, Paris, 1929
- Une fourmi ouvrière, 1931, Paris ; Au Sans Pareil, 1935 (Repris par les éditions Spartacus, Paris).
- Quitter tout cela, suivi de Au jour le jour, éd. Entre Nous, Nemours 1937
She translated Dutch and Belgian world literature into the French language:
- L’enfant Jésus en Flandre, translation of "Het Kindeke Jesus in Vlaanderen" by Felix Timmermans: Paris: Rieder 1925.
- La maisonnette près du Fossé , translation "Het huisje aan de sloot" by Carry van Bruggen: Paris: Ed. Du Tambourin, 1931.
- De vieilles gens, translation of "Van oude menschen, de dingen, die voorbij gaan..." by Louis Couperus: lost manuscript.
The last book was in English translated as: "Old People and the Things that Pass".
Doff died on 14 July 1942 from kidney failure in her home, 16 rue de Naples in Ixelles.
On 6 March 1975 the very successful film "Keetje Tippel" of the Dutch director Paul Verhoeven had a première.