Biography of Cola Debrot (1902-1981)

Poet, Narrator, essayist, literary critic, medical and political Dutch, kralendijk (Bonaire) (capital of the island of Bonaire, belonging to the Kingdom of the Netherlands)-born on May 4, 1902, and died on December 3, 1981 in Laren (Holland). It was one of the most prominent figures of the intelligentsia of the Netherlands Antilles of the 20th century.

Came to the world in a family accommodated, formed by the owner of a plantation that had married a Venezuelan woman. He/She received, in the record, the official name from Nicolaas Debrot, but was always known by his nickname hipocorístico from tail, that he/she put his name to create the pseudonym with which he/she signed all his literary work.

His father - that it was natural for the island of Bonaire - inherited love for the Netherlands Antilles, and in particular by forming the southern group or "Windward", also known as "ABC Islands" (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). Also, learned his parent and staff who had the Creole language of this territory in his plantation: Papiamentu. On the other hand, his mother used you since he/she was a child to speak in Spanish, by who, during his childhood and adolescence, only spoke Dutch (official language of the territory where it had come to the world) at the school and Institute.

When completing the fourteen years of age, young Cola Debrot was sent by her parents to Europe, so he/she knew the Netherlands and could pursue secondary education and higher education at the best schools in the Kingdom that belonged to as a full-fledged citizen. It was as well as he/she enrolled, in 1916, at the Institute of Nijmegen (in the Dutch province of Gelderland), where it happened, at the end of five years, to study law at the prestigious University of Utrecht.

During his prolonged stay in the city of Utrecht (1921-1928), the young Debrot came into contact with some of the leading figures of local literature and intelligentsia. Then he/she moved to Paris, where it would remain for three years, period in which survived doing translations and other similar trades that reinforced its links with the world of letters. It could thus establish bonds of friendship with some authors as relevant as Louis-Ferdinand Céline, you shared, as well as love letters, interest in medicine.

After having contracted marriage, in the French capital, with the American citizen Estelle Reed, he/she returned to Holland in 1931 with his brand new wife and settled in Amsterdam, at whose University studied medicine. At the same time, began to write his first extensive narration, that posted in the middle of that decade in the 1930s under the title Mijn Monsieur de negerin (my black sister [Rotterdam, 1935]), was to become not only in his most known and celebrated by critics and readers, but the starting point of the West Indian narrative written in the Dutch language (both in regards to novels written by authors of the Netherlands Antillesas in terms of prose of fiction focused specifically on themes, landscapes, figures and problems that Caribbean demarcation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).

Always related to outstanding figures in the world of letters, art and thought, by that time Cola Debrot made friends with the young artist Appel Karel (1921)-, who, at fifteen years of age, left the first signs of the talent that treasured in a splendid portrait of the writer of Bonaire, dated 1936. He/She was, by then, West Indian writer engaged in the drafting of his second novel, Miss Campbell (1938), who managed to give to the printer before the ghost of war abalanzase on the old continent. Also, in his circle of friends included the great poet and novelist Willem Frederik Hermans, who helped him to settle as a physician in Amsterdam, the profession that was for all the World War II).

At the time attending their obligations of Galen, Cola Debrot continued cultivating literary creation, both in the narrative genre - IDB voor Camille Willocq (Amsterdam, 1946) - as in the field of poetry - who, after an early foray, entitled Heimwee (1918), had published two years have landed in Europe, added a couple of works written during the war: Bekentenisssen in Toledo (Amsterdam, 1945) and Navrante zomer (Amsterdam, 1945). It already planned return to his beloved land West Indian when it reached to see completed and edited in Europe a new novel of his, cloudy hieruit (life overshadowed [Amsterdam, 1948]), soon also included by critics among the best novels in Dutch language of that turbulent and tragic decade. In this work, Cola Debrot dealt with singular dedication and hit one of the fundamental themes in all his literary production: the uprooted person.

In 1948, Cola Debrot left Europe and returned to the Netherlands Antilles, to settle not in natal Bonaire, but on the island of Curaçao, where served as Galen (in the speciality of general medicine) for several years. Soon it became one of the most important figures of the Curaçao social life, which encouraged him to enter the political arena, where he/she was called to establish itself in one of the most important figures of his people. Thus, in 1952 - the year in which, always attentive to his literary production, gave the press a new book of poems, of afwezigen (Amsterdam, 1952)-, again crossed the Atlantic to play, in the Hague, the work of Minister Plenipotentiary of the Netherlands Antilles in the Dutch Government, where he/she played an outstanding role in the new political Constitution acquired by the territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (the aforementioned Caribbean Islands and Suriname) American.

On his return to Curaçao, Debrot became Governor of the Netherlands Antilles - maximum political dignity of the demarcation, office where he/she remained for eight years (1962-1970). Once completed the political stage in Curacao, he/she decided to spend the rest of his life in a Europe that had fully adapted from the first moment of your arrival (despite having managed to retain, in their literature, local flavor, the colorful and the concerns of its West Indian Islands); and thus, from 1970 was established in the small and beautiful country village of Laren, where his mental health began to be altered by severe depressive pictures that, with the passage of time, necessitated internment of the already elderly West Indian writer in a psychiatric hospital. Finally, a very serious medical condition - prostate cancer - ended his life at the end of 1981, when it was close to achieve the status of an octogenarian. By express will own Cola Debrot, his mortal remains were incinerated and their ashes thrown by a ship of the Dutch Navy, to the icy waters of the North Sea.


In his beginnings as a writer, the young Cola Debrot, dazzled by the avant-garde currents that had just discovered in Europe, participated enthusiastically in some of these movements ground-breaking and innovative, as it made clear well in poems and prose texts first-time published in the magazine Forum between 1932 and 1935. Later, he/she came to address another important cultural publication of the Dutch avant-garde, Criterium magazine for a couple of years.

However, in his first novel - the aforementioned Mijn Monsieur de negerin (my black sister, 1935)-, Debrot already introduced himself as an intellectual, even despite belong fully to the best European cultural tradition and be aware of its latest cutting-edge derivations, had the firm and declared purpose of nourish his literary production with the typical themes of the Caribbean literature (in this case concrete(, the complicated relations between persons of different ethnic origin). In this line of work, Debrot attempted in this novel and the rest of his narrative and poetic works juxtapose a series of fundamental contrasts between European civilization and the Caribbean culture, stressing that differences religious, historical, political, cultural and spiritual that separate both worlds can be very enriching for each of them. In this sense, Debrot does not play, as other Antillean authors, to file those contrasts, but voluntarily to emphasize diversity, with the aim of squeezing the wealth of characters, customs, landscapes, situations, behaviours, attitudes... that arises from the divergence.

In addition to this first novel and the already mentioned in paragraphs earlier - namely: Miss Campbell (1938), IDB voor Camille Willocq (1946) and cloudy hieruit (1948)-, Cola Debrot was author of other extensive narratives as Galante CONOCER (1976) and vervolgden (1982) - the latter published posthumously. The West Indian writer was also a seasoned essayist, with titles such as Ars in Vita (1945), Het existentialisme, Drie voordrachten met discussie (1947), Antilliaanse cahiers (1955), Dagboekbladen ITU Geneva (1963), Over Antilliaanse cultuur (1985), Over literatuur (1987), Over dans in beeldende kunst (1988) and Wie was Celine? Van cuirassier tot clochard (1989). In his literary essays and critical studies paid special attention to literature written in the Netherlands Antilles, with jobs that gave him great prestige as a critic not only in the Netherlands and its overseas territories, but also in all the Anglo-Saxon academic world.

In his capacity as poet, Debrot gave to the printer the following collections of verses: Heimwee (1918), Bekentenis in Toledo (1945), Navrante zomer (1945), afwezigen (1952), Tussen de grijze lijnen in andere gedichten (1970) and Gedichten (1985). The avant-garde of his new poems, the author of Bonaire became a poetry of maturity joyfully infected of the formal resources of popular poetry of the West Indies and Caribbean rhythms.

J. R. Fernández Cano