Michel de Ghelderode

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Michel de Ghelderode
Born Adhémar-Adolphe-Louis Martens
(1898-04-03)3 April 1898
Ixelles, Belgium
Died 1962 (aged 63–64)
Brussels, Belgium
Nationality Belgium
Other names Philostene Costenoble
Jac Nolan
Occupation dramatist
Spouse(s) Jeanne-Françoise Gérard (d.1980)

Michel de Ghelderode (born as Adhémar-Adolphe-Louis Martens, 3 April 1898 – 1962) was an avant-garde Belgian dramatist, writing in French.


A prolific writer, he wrote more than 60 plays, a hundred stories, a number of articles on art and folklore and more than 20,000 letters. He is the creator of a fantastic and disturbing, often macabre, grotesque and cruel world filled with mannequins, puppets, devils, masks, skeletons, religious paraphernalia, and mysterious old women. His works create an eerie and unsettling atmosphere although they rarely contain anything explicitly scary.

Among Ghelderode's influences were puppet theater, commedia dell'arte and the Belgian painter of the macabre, James Ensor. His works often deal with the extremes of human experience, from death and degradation to religious exaltation.

His 1934 play La Balade du grand macabre served as inspiration for György Ligeti's opera Le Grand Macabre.

According to Oscar G. Brockett, the works of Ghelderode resemble those of Alfred Jarry, the surrealists and the expressionists, and his theories are similar to those of Antonin Artaud. Through nearly all of his plays runs his perception of human beings as creatures whose flesh overpowers spirit. "Corruption, death and cruelty are always near the surface [of Ghelderode's work], although behind them lurks an implied criticism of degradation and materialism and a call to repentance "[1]

Jean Cocteau proclaimed: "Ghelderode is the black diamond that closes the necklace of poets that Belgium carries around her neck. This black diamond casts a cruel and noble fire. It wounds only the small souled. It dazzles others."

Personal life[edit]

Ghelderode married Jeanne-Françoise Gérard in 1924. He died in 1962 and is buried in the Laeken Cemetery, Brussels.



  • La Corne d'Abondance [The Horn of Abundance] (1925)


  • La Mort regarde à la fenêtre [Death Looks in the Window] (1918)
  • Le repas des fauves [The Beasts' Meal] (1918)
  • Piet Bouteille (or Oude Piet) (1920)
  • Le Cavalier bizarre [The Strange Rider] (1920 or 1924)
  • Têtes de bois [Blockheads] (1924)
  • Le Miracle dans le faubourg [Miracle in the Suburb] (1924, unedited)
  • Le Mystère de la Passion de Notre-Seigneur Jésus Christ (1924, for marionettes)
  • Duvelor ou la Farce du diable vieux [Duvelor, or the Farce of the Old Devil] (1925, for marionettes)
  • La Farce de la Mort qui faillit trépasser [The Farce of Death Who Almost Died] (1925)
  • Les Vieillards [The Old Men] (1925)
  • La Mort du Docteur Faust (1926)
  • Le massacre des innocents (1926, for marionettes)
  • Images de la vie de saint François d'Assise (1926)
  • Venus (1927)
  • Escurial (1927)
  • Christophe Colomb (1927)
  • La Transfiguration dans le Cirque (1927)
  • Noyade des songes, [Dreams Drowning] (1928)
  • Un soir de pitié [A Night of Pity] (1928)
  • Trois acteurs, un drame... (1928)
  • Don Juan (1928)
  • Barabbas (1928)
  • Fastes d'enfer [Chronicles of Hell] (1929)
  • Pantagleize (1929)
  • Atlantique (1930)
  • Celui qui vendait de la corde de pendu [The One Who Sold the Hanging Rope] Farce 3 acts. (1930)
  • Godelieve (1930, unedited)
  • Le Ménage de Caroline (1930)
  • Le Sommeil de la raison [The Sleep of Reason] (1930)
  • Le Club des menteurs (ou Le Club des mensonges) [Liar's Club] (1931)
  • La Couronne de fer-blanc [The Tin-Plated Crown] Farce, 2 Acts and 3 Tableaux. (1931)
  • Magie rouge [Red Magic] (1931)
  • Le Voleur d'étoiles [The Star Thief] (1931)
  • Le Chagrin d'Hamlet [The Sorrow of Hamlet] (1932)
  • Vie publique de Pantagleize 1932(?)
  • La grande tentation de Saint Antoine [The Great Temptation of Saint Anthony]. Burlesque cantata. (1932)
  • La ronde de nuit [The Night Watch]. Pseudodrama for marionettes. (1932)
  • La nuit de mai [The Night in May]. Drama for marionettes. (1932)
  • Pike anatomique [Anatomical Play]. (1932)
  • Le marchand de reliques [The Relic Dealer]. Pseudodrama. (1932)
  • Casimir de l'Academie... [Casimir of the Academy] Pseudodrama. (1932)
  • Paradis presque perdu (Paradise Almost Lost) Mystery. (1932)
  • Genéalogie [Genealogy] Pseudodrama. (1932)
  • Arc-en-ciel [Rainbow] (1933)
  • Les Aveugles [The Blind men] (1933)
  • Les Femmes au tombeau [The Women at the Tomb] (1933, for marionettes)
  • Le Siège d'Ostende (1933)
  • Swane A Forest Legend, Opera (1933) according to a story by Stijn Streuvels, music by Maurice Schoemaker.
  • Plaisir d'amour (1933)
  • Adrian et Jusemina (1934)
  • Le Perroquet de Charles Quint [The Parrot of Charles V] (1934)
  • Masques ostendais (1934)
  • Petit drame (1934)
  • La Balade du grand macabre (1934)
  • Sire Halewyn (1934)
  • Mademoiselle Jaïre (1934)
  • Le Soleil se couche... [The Sun Goes Down] (1934)
  • D'un diable qui précha merveilles [Of a Devil Who Preached Wonders] Mystery for marionettes, 3 acts. (1934)
  • Hop Signor! (1935)
  • Sortie de l'acteur, [Exit the Actor] (1935)
  • Le vieux Soudard [The Old Trooper] Cantata. (1935)
  • Le singulier trépas de Messire Ulenspigel [The Singular Death of Messire Ulenspigel] Play, 8 scenes. (1935)
  • La Farce des Ténébreux [The Farce of Shadows] (1936)
  • La Pie sur le gibet [The Magpie on the Gallows] (1937)
  • Pantagleize est un ange [Pantagleize is an Angel] (1938, draft)
  • La petite fine aux mains de bois [The Little Girl with Wooden Hands]. (written with Jean Barleig). Fairy Tale, 3 Acts. (1939)
  • Scenes from the life of a Bohemian: Franz Schubert (1941)
  • L'école des bouffons [School for Buffons] (1942)
  • La Légende de la Sacristine [The Legend of the Sacristan] (1942, draft)
  • Le Papegay triomphant (1943, unedited)
  • For They Know Not What They Do (1950, unedited)
  • La folie d'Hugo van der Goes [The Madness of Hugo van der Goes] Play, 3 scenes. (1951)
  • Marie la misérable (1952)
  • The Touching and Very Moral Heavenly Tribulation ... (full title: The Touching and Very Moral Heavenly Tribulation of Petrus in Eremo, pastor of a lean parish to the fat land of Flanders), (1960, unfinished)
  • Angelic Chorus (1962, unedited)


  • Voyage Autour de ma Flandre (or Kwiebe-Kwiebus) (1921)
  • L'Histoire Comique de Keizer Karel (1922)
  • La Halte catholique (1922)
  • L'Homme sous l'uniforme [The Man under the Uniform] (1923)
  • L'homme a la moustache d'or [The Man with the Mustache of Gold] (1931)
  • Sortilèges [Spells] (1941)
  • Mes Statues (1943)
  • Choses et gens de chez nous [Things and People from Home] (1943, 2 volumes)
  • La Flandre est un songe (1953)
  • The Ostend Interviews (1956)


  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1919-1927
  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1928-1931
  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1932-1935
  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1936-1941
  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1942-1945
  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1946-1949
  • Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode 1950-1953


  • Philostene Costenoble, Jac Nolan, Babylas


  1. ^ Beockett, Oscar Gross, History of the Theatre/ Oscar G. Brockett, Franklin J. Hildy.-9th ed. Copyright 2003 Pearson Education Group, Inc.


  • Parsell, David B. (1993) Michel de Ghelderode. New York: Twayne Publishers. 0-8057-43030
  • Ghelderode, Michel de (edited by R. Beyen) (1991-?) Correspondance de Michel de Ghelderode. Bruxelles: Archives du Futur (Tomes 1-7)
  • Willinger, David (2000) Ghelderode. Austin, TX: Host Publishers

including translations into English of the plays: 'The Siege of Ostend,' 'Transfiguration in the Circus,' and 'The Actor Makes His Exit'

  • Willinger, David (2002) Theatrical Gestures of Belgian Modernism. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 0-8204-5503-2, including translations into English of the plays: 'Venus,' 'Dreams Drowning,' 'Blockheads.'

External links[edit]