Willem Elsschot

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Willem Elsschot
Willem Elsschot
Willem Elsschot
Born (1882-05-07)7 May 1882
Antwerp, Belgium
Died 31 May 1960(1960-05-31) (aged 78)
Antwerp, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Occupation poet, writer
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.


For the translation of the titles, see the "Bibliography" section

De Ridder, writing as Elsschot, published poems in a magazine titled "Alvoorder". His writing became popular while he worked in Rotterdam, where 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).

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.

Some lines of his poem Het Huwelijk/The Marriage (1933) are among the most cited poetry in the Dutch language.[1]


  • 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.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ see Willem Elsschot

    The often-cited lines are:

    "Maar doodslaan deed hij niet, want tussen droom en daad
    staan wetten in de weg en praktische bezwaren,
    en ook weemoedigheid, die niemand kan verklaren,
    en die des avonds komt, wanneer men slapen gaat."

    Translated (approximately, to keep rhyme):

    "But murder did he not, for between dream and deed
    laws and practicalities remain,
    and melancholy, which no one can explain,
    and which comes in the evening, when one to sleep proceed."

External links[edit]