7 May 1882|
|Died||31 May 1960
|Awards||Constantijn Huygens Prize (1951)|
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]). A number of his works have been translated into English.
De Ridder was born in Antwerp to a baker's family. He studied economics & business. During secondary school, he developed a love for literature. He was quite restless, having various types of jobs in cities from Antwerp and Brussels to Rotterdam and Paris. During the First World War, he served as the secretary of a national food relief committee in Antwerp. After the war he started his own advertising agency, which he ran until his death.
De Ridder died in Antwerp in 1960, receiving a national literary award posthumously. He is interred in the Antwerpen Schoonselhof.
De Ridder, writing as Elsschot, made his authorial debut as a poet (publishing in the magazine Alvoorder), but it was as a writer of prose that he achieved much of his fame. While living in Rotterdam he wrote Villa des Roses (1913); his most famous work came 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.
- Villa des Roses (1913; translated in 1992 by Paul Vincent [ISBN 1-86207-616-2])
- Een ontgoocheling ("A Disappointment", 1921)
- De verlossing ("Deliverance", 1921)
- Lijmen (1924, translated as "Soft Soap" and collected in Three Novels, 1965)
- Kaas ("Cheese", 1933, translated in 2002 by Paul Vincent [ISBN 1-86207-481-X] - Review)
- Tsjip (1934)
- Verzen van vroeger ("Poems from the Past", 1934)
- Pensioen ("Pension", 1937)
- Het been (1938, translated as "The Leg" and collected in Three Novels)
- De leeuwentemmer ("The Lion Tamer", 1940)
- Het tankschip ("The Tankship", 1942)
- Het dwaallicht (1946, short story, translated as "Will o' the Wisp" and collected in Three Novels)
- Verzameld werk ("Collected works", 1957)
In 2008 the novel Kaas ("Cheese", 1933) and the novella Het dwaallicht ("Will o'the Wisp", in Three Novels, 1946) were made into graphic novels by Dick Matena. Several of Elsschot's works were filmed in Belgium and in the Netherlands.
Notes and references
- 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.
- Elsschot society (Dutch)
- "Willem Elsschot"; series of articles for the fiftieth anniversary of his death