Felix Timmermans (1886-1947) initially worked as a pattern drawer in his father’s lace business. After World War I, he moved to the Netherlands, where he stayed until 1920, earning his living as a writer, poet, painter and artist. Although he also published poetry, plays and adaptations of medieval texts, Timmermans primarily wrote novels, fictionalised biographies and stories. He also illustrated his own books. His works won him innumerable awards and have been translated many times. In 1922, he was awarded the Belgian State Prize for Narrative Prose.
Alongside Stijn Streuvels, Timmermans is one of the representatives of the Flemish ‘rural novel'. While Streuvels cultivates the farmer and countryside into an almost mythical fact, Timmermans continues to work within a kind of mini-realism or miniaturism. The main themes are always an unshakeable faith, resignation to providence and allegiance to one’s own region and traditions.
The sombre novellas with which Timmermans debuted around 1910 contrast sharply, however, with the lively novel Pallieter, a true ode to ‘la joie de vivre’. In this book, Timmermans portrays an atmosphere, carpe diem – folkloricly translated by Timmermans as ‘milk the day!’ – rather than a story that weighs up the sense and nonsense of life.
In addition to many novels and short stories, Timmermans also wrote romanticised biographies of Pieter Bruegel and St. Francis of Assisi, as well as travel tales, autobiographical works and plays. In 1935, he published his well-known work, A Peasant’s Psalm, a novel that reveals a deep knowledge of suffering, in which praise of nature gives way to praise of humanity.