The manuscript of "Occupied City" has finally been found


"Bezette Stad" (Occupied City), a pinnacle of avant-garde Dutch-language literature, would play a key role in later literature and is also the subject of international interest.

Flemish poet and prose-writer Paul Van Ostaijen (1896-1928) focused primarily on art, literature, journalism and politics, and immersed himself in the cultural and society life of his native city of Antwerp.


1921 saw the publication of Occupied City, Paul Ostaijen's unparalleled masterpiece, written in Berlin between 1919 and 1921. In terms of both form and tone, it marked a break from his previous living autobiographies and his humanist and expressionist poetry. His native city, occupied by the Germans during the First World War, is a key element of the story. It functions as a metaphor for the war, nihilism, dadaism, advertising slogans, the cinema, Christianity, the major and minor arts, and the night life of variety theatres, among others. But it is the interaction between content and depiction that is truly revolutionary, with its experimental rhythmic typography reminiscent of a music score. Certain fragments, such as ‘BOEM PAUKESLAG’ (translated as Cymbal crash), will not be forgotten.


The Flemish government bought the unique manuscript, long considered lost, for €725,000, and immediately scanned it and made it accessible online.