When Maurice Gilliams won the Dutch Literature Prize (Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren) 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 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’. In Gilliams’s work description has been supplanted by analysis and that analysis extends to the process of remembering, sensory perception and writing itself.