Willem Elsschot

Willem Elsschot (Flanders, 1882-1960) is a major and popular twentieth-century Flemish novelist whose novels are considered classics in both Flanders and the Netherlands. His first novel Villa des Roses (1913), made into a movie, was crowned at the 2002 Hollywood Movie Awards. His masterpiece Kaas (Cheese, 1933) established him as a sophisticated stylist, and unique in Flemish realism. Since being published in English in 2002, Cheese has conquered the world.

Soft Soap / The Leg

(Querido, 1924, 222 pages)

The novellas, Lijmen (Soft Soap, 1924) and Het been (The Leg, 1938) are two highlights of Elsschot’s fiction, linked by a common narrative and featuring the tragicomic Keatonesque character of Frans Laarmans, a little man reaching for the stars, who also appears in Het dwaallicht (Will-o’-the-Wisp, 1946).

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(Querido, 1933, 112 pages)

Ida de Ridder published her memoirs of her father Alfons de Ridder, the man who gained fame as a writer under the pseudonym Willem Elsschot (1882-1960). Oddly enough, it wasn’t until Ida went to secondary school that she found out that her father and the extraordinary Flemish writer were one and the same person. Suddenly his ‘unapproachable’ hours were explained. Alfons de Ridder, the head of a successful advertising agency, had never said a word about his writing at home.

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