Felix Timmermans, surprisingly multi-talented
He addressed a wide variety of themes in his almost 50 publications in book form. A creator of prose with an eye for everything that happens on, in and between earth and heaven.
Felix Timmermans, who was born and died in Lier, is best known for Pallieter (1916), after the main character of the same name who cries out his joy of life where the sandy region of Brabant turns into clay. Far beyond the country's borders, the exuberant greeting of this heathen folk hero milking the day was heard and praised as the embodiment of the Flemish attitude to life. The latter, of course, is a gross generalisation. By the way, Timmermans explicitly opposed this misconception. He said of himself that 'unlike his Pallieter, he was quiet and seldom passionate, no daredevil, no gifted skater, did not live outside, did not ride on horseback and did not embrace the trees with delight at all'. In reality, Pallieter was Timmermans' ode to his own awakening from a deep, prolonged mental crisis accompanied by a very serious illness during his adolescence. It is no coincidence that it was in this period that he published his collection of novels Schemeringen van de dood (Intimations of Death) (1910), his prose debut, with De Lijkbidder (The undertaker's man), Het zevende graf (The seventh grave), De witte vaas (The white vase), Het ongekende (The unknown) and in particular the highly depressing De kelder (The basement), which is reminiscent of great masters of the genre such as Edgar Allan Poe and Jean Ray.
Two years later, in De zeer schone uren van juffrouw Symforosa, begijntjen (The wonderful hours of Miss Symforosa, the beguine) (1918), Timmermans so fervently outlined the commotion devoutness in the unworldly seclusion of the Lier Beguinage, like never before. With poetic delicacy, he unfurled the unfulfilled paradise between the young beguine Symforosa and the simple beguinage gardener, and later monk, Martienus.
Felix Timmermans was neither Pallieter nor mystic; neither a thinker, nor a superficial storyteller; not a realist, but even less a fantasist. Certainly not a language expert, but all the more a virtuoso in style. His grammatical errors and syntactic clumsiness are amply compensated for by his amazing pictorial power, especially determined by his strong sensory perceptions. Furthermore, his readers fall for his world of simplicity and silence, imagery, striking comparisons, original viewpoint, apposite personifications, etc.
First and foremost a prose writer, but Felix Timmermans started and ended his artistic career with poetry. He also adapted prose texts into popular plays, was especially famous abroad for his causal tours, successfully practised painting and graphics and showed himself to be the dream illustrator of his own work.
Felix Timmermans has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Danish, German, English, Esperanto, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Slovenian, Slovak, Spanish, Afrikaans and Swedish.
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