Jacoba van Velde

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Jacoba van Velde (The Hague, 10 May 1903 – Amsterdam, 7 September 1985) was a Dutch writer. Her novel debut "De grote zaal" (The Great Hall) appeared in 1953 and was within ten years translated into thirteen languages. During her life around 75,000 copies of "De grote zaal" were sold. In 2010, in a national campaign, the book was given away for free to members of all the public libraries in The Netherlands.


Jacoba was the youngest of four children, with an older sister and two older brothers. Her father was often absent during her youth and her mother was a washerwoman. She only went to school until she was ten, but taught herself different languages. Already when she was seventeen she went to Paris to attend dance training. In 1924, she married the violinist Harry Polah; they performed in Berlin. Later, she formed with a male partner the dance duo Pola Maslowa & Rabanoff. Together they went along cabarets and music halls in a large number of European countries. In 1937, she married the writer Bob Clercx. Both marriages remained childless.

Van Velde lived a great part of her life in Paris, just like her brothers Geer van Velde and Bram van Velde, who after World War II would make a name for themselves as painters. Just after the war, she was under the name Tonny Clerx, while being a literary agent for the French work of the Irish author and poet Samuel Beckett, but gave up this function in 1947 to focus on her own writing.

Van Velde's oeuvre remained small; mostly she was working as translator and dramaturge. She translated inter alia plays by Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco and Jean Genet from French to Dutch.

Her second and final novel, Een blad in de wind (A Leaf in the Wind) (1961), received less critical acclaim. Jacoba van Velde began still a third novel, De verliezers (The Losers), but never completed it.


  • 1947 – Évasion (story)
  • 1953 – De grote zaal (The Great Hall) (novel)
  • 1961 – Een blad in de wind (A Leaf in the Wind) (novel)
  • 1987 – Verzameld werk (Collected works) (two novels and ten stories)

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