Stefan Hertmans, versatile literary genius
Poetry, novels, short stories and travel stories, essays, theatre texts, reviews, columns. Stefan Hertmans is a prolific writer and often acclaimed author who has mastered it all. He is well known in Belgium and abroad.
Stefan Hertmans, born in Ghent in 1951, became an author quite late in his life. After his training in Germanic philology at the RUG, he taught at the Secondary Art Institute and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in his home town. In the seventies, he was also active in the jazz world.
Although he is best known as a novelist, making his official debut in that genre in 1981 with Ruimte (Space), intellectualist prose with many references to music, painting and literature, Stefan Hertmans began writing poems as an adolescent. Poetry has always felt to him like an ever-present undertone in his life. He noticed that the public was interested in this and had a respect for it that never stopped, so now he is chiefly a poet. His numerous collections of poems are a testament to this.
We highlight some of his milestones and highlights from prose literature. Naar Merelbeke (To Merelbeke, 1994), in which he tells in a moving but also funny way about the maturing of a boy in a Flemish village in the fifties and sixties, against the background of his fantasies about the Cold War and his blossoming sexuality. He can only bridge the gap between his own world and that of adults with imagination. In Oorlog en Terpentijn (War and Turpentine, 2013), Hertmans demonstrates the maturity of his literary talent. At an advanced age, his grandfather had noted down his memories of his life before, during and shortly after WWI. For over thirty years, the author left them unread until he decided to turn that life into a novel, his most read and translated masterpiece. In his most recent novel, De Opgang (The Rise, 2020), also war prose, he analyses the trade and walk of one Willem Verhulst, a former SS man and collaborator who really existed and in whose house in Ghent he came to live in 1979 without realising it.
At numerous lectures, festivals and symposia in Belgium and worldwide, from the US to Australia, Stefan Hertmans has represented Dutch literature with verve. His work has been translated into Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Croatian, Norwegian, Polish, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish.
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