Alphonsus Josephus de Ridder (7 May 1882 – 31 May 1960), was a Belgian writer and poet who wrote under the pseudonym Willem Elsschot (pronounced [ˈʋɪləm ˈɛlsxɔt]). One of the most prominent Flemish author, his most famous work, Cheese (1933) is the most translated Flemish-language novel of all time.
|Born||Alphonsus Josephus de Ridder|
7 May 1882
|Died||31 May 1960 (aged 78)|
|Pen name||Willem Elsschot|
|Notable awards||Constantijn Huygens Prize (1951)|
Early life and educationEdit
Elsschot was born Alphonsus Josephus de Ridder on 7 May 1882 in Antwerp, to a family of bakers. As a child he would often visit his uncle in rural Blauberg, near Herselt, where they would walk in the Helschot area, from which he would later derive his pen name.
After studying at a state school in Van Maerlantstraat, then the Royal Athenaeum of Antwerp, he attended the Institut Supérieur de Commerce de l'État (nl), later known as the Rijkshandelhogeschool, where he would study economics and business, achieving a masters' degree in commercial sciences in 1904. It was during his studies there that he would develop a love for literature, while under the tutorship of Pol de Mont.
After finishing his studies, Elsschot worked in Paris for a South American businessman, then for various businesses in the Netherlands.
During the First World War, he served as the secretary of a national food relief committee in Antwerp, after which he moved into the world of advertising, setting up his own agency in 1911, which he would run until his death.
Elsschot did not enjoy the world of advertising. Before his death in 1960 he was quoted as saying: "I am not only disgusted by advertising, but also by commercialism in general. And I wrote Lijmen because I had to get rid of it somehow. I had to advertise, because I could never live off my pen."
Elsschot began writing poetry in 1900, making his authorial debut as a poet (publishing in the magazine Alvoorder).
Yet it was as a writer of prose that he achieved much of his fame. Whilst living in Rotterdam he wrote Villa des Roses (1913), following the adventures of the guests of a Paris boardinghouse. While it was ignored by critics and readers alike upon its publication, his most famous works would come in the 1920s and 1930s: Lijmen (1924), Kaas (1933), Tsjip (1934) en Het Been (1938), novels with tragic and comic elements.
Central themes in his work are business and family life. His style is characterised by detailed descriptions of surroundings and a mild cynicism. In his first books he works with the same characters, giving the readers a familiarity and a sketch of life in Antwerp during the 1930s. His characters Boorman, an entrepreneur always looking for scams and opportunities, and Frans Laarmans, a clerk, evolve through these books.
Personal life and deathEdit
He was married to Fine de Ridder, with whom he had a daughter, Ida. He also had a relationship with the poet Liane Bruilants.
Elsschot died in Antwerp from a heart attack on 31 May 1968, at the age of 78. He was cremated and his ashes buried with the body of his wife in the Antwerpen Schoonselhof. He was posthumously awarded the State Prize for Literature, and in 1994 a statue of him was erected at Mechelplein in Antwerp.
In 2005 he finished at No. 49 in the Flemish version of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian).
Comic book adaptationEdit
- (1913) Villa des Roses
- (1920) Een ontgoocheling (The disappointment)
- (1921) De verlossing (The salvation)
- (1924) Lijmen (Convincing)
- (1933) Kaas (Cheese)
- (1934) Tsjip
- (1934) Verzen van vroeger (Poems from the past)
- (1937) Pensioen (Pension)
- (1938) Het been (The leg)
- (1940) De leeuwentemmer (The lion tamer)
- (1942) Het tankschip (The tank ship)
- (1943) Verzen (Poems)
- (1946) Het dwaallicht (The will-o'-the-wisp)
- (1957) Verzameld werk (Collected work)
- "Did you know that Willem Elsschot once lived in Brussels?". Focus on Belgium. 25 May 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
- "La Revue continentale illustrée: industrie, finance, commerce, éducation. Vol.4 Nr.10-11". lib.ugent.be. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
- "Elsschot, Willem 1882-1960 | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
- "Willem Elsschot | Belgian writer". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
- Steinz, Jet; Steinz, Pieter (2015). Steinz: gids voor de wereldliteratuur in 416 schrijvers, 104 meesterwerken, 26 one-book wonders, 52 boekwebben, 26 thema's, 26 quizzen en 52 landkaarten (in Dutch). Wereldbibliotheek. pp. 143–44. ISBN 9789046819432.
- RD 2/12/1920
- "Dick Matena". lambiek.net.