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Hadewijch. The Complete Letters
Middle Dutch Text

Authors:  Mommaers P., Daróczi A.
Year: 2016
ISBN: 978-90-429-3028-5
Price: Forthcoming

Hadewijch, a Flemish beguine, who lived and wrote somewhere in Brabant during the thirteenth century, has brought mystical literature as a whole to its highest point.

Hadewijch’s teaching is most accessible in her Letters, as there it is cast in a mould that succeeds in touching the senses as well as the mind. In her text, oral and written culture combine to form an organic unity: when Hadewijch writes, she not only builds sentences with words but composes sounds as well. In these mystical texts, minne (“love”) is pivotal as regards both form and content -- a distinction which Hadewijch largely overrides. As regards form, minne serves as a catchword which occurs everywhere, again and again, drawing together different parts and sections. As regards content, minne is the key to the mystical experience evoked by Hadewijch and refers as much to the person who lives the mystical union (along with the content of this feeling), as to the way in which this union makes itself felt.

This edition of Hadewijch’s Letters includes the text of the 31 letters. The English text is not intended to be a word-for-word translation from the Middle Dutch, though it tries to keep closely to the original. Hadewijch’s own words, phrases and turns of phrase are transposed into the English text, especially when these are repeated and do not become a stumbling block for the present-day reader. There is a commentary to each Letter. However, the purpose in each case is not to accumulate the erudition of specialists or to comment on different interpretations. The aim is to encourage a slow and loving reading of the text itself, while trying to avoid any ready-made summary of what Hadewijch “has to say”. This edition also offers a new, sound-based lay-out of the text which is intended to assist an appreciation of the creativity of this gifted writer whose words and phrasing literally make music.

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