Maurice Gilliams 1900_1982

When Maurice Gilliams (1900-1982) won the Grand Prize for Literature in 1980, many a newspaper journalist was at a loss: as far as the press was concerned Gilliams had always been ‘the Great Unknown’ of Dutch-language literature. But in the literary world itself Gilliams’s work was considered not only an inside tip but also a milestone in the development of the novelist’s art.

In 1936 Gilliams’s Elias of het gevecht met de nachtegalen (Elias or the Struggle with the Nightingales) had ushered in a new, strongly suggestive way of writing and a novelistic structure based on the sonata. The critics called the book a ‘melting pot of genres’: Gilliams’s prose is close to poetry and driven by what he himself called ‘an essayistic motivation’.

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