Israel Querido

Poetry by Israel Querido, on the window of his former house

Poetry by Israel Querido, on the window of his former house

These lines appear on the window of a house in the Jordaan (translation mine)

“a strange light plays, mysteriously of variable hues, dances over the fanciful shopfronts and gable stones

The lines were written by Israel Querido, I think as a description of the neighbourhood. He lived in this house while writing a book called “De Jordaan” (The Jordaan) which described working-class life in detail, including how people spoke.

I’ve never heard of Israel Querido before and there’s little information about him online in English. The Jewish Historical Museum has a short biography (Dutch only), he was fascinating.

He was born in Amsterdam in 1872, the third son of a diamond polisher, and descended from Portuguese Jews. The family were not well off, but did emphasise education and culture. Through self-education he became a learned man, with deep knowledge of history, philosophy and literature.

He married Jeanette Sjouwerman in 1893 and went into business as a jeweller, but failed as a business man. He went on to become a reporter and later a full-time writer and journalist. He wrote poetry, but was more successful with prose, publishing more than 20 novels; including the novel “De Jordaan”.

He also wrote a play “Aron Laguna”, which premiered in 1917. It was a realistic and critical look at Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam and was controversial. His character was also controversial, people found it hard to accept his extramarital affairs and eccentric character. He had frequent money and family problems, some of which were played out in public.

He did earn a measure of fame in his lifetime, and his death, on 5 August 1932, was reported in all the papers.

There is a commemorative plaque on the house

“A group of friends placed this stone in memory of Israel Querido who wrote “The Jordaan” here”

It was placed there barely 2 months after his death.

Commemorative Plaque

Commemorative Plaque

2 thoughts on “Israel Querido

  1. I’d translate that a little different.

    A strange play of light (lightshow),
    mysterious of changing
    gleams, vibrated across the
    whimsical facades and
    gable stones (gevelsteen is also used to describe ordinary bricks and not only the ‘real’ thing.)

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