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Gerard Walschap

Gerard Walschap (1898-1989) turned to literature after abandoning his studies for the priesthood. In his controversial books, he agitated against the sometimes dubiously idealised regional Flemish literature of the first half of the 20th century. Walschap’s novels are levelheaded and call a spade a spade. Contentually, he created a new type of novel, in a fresh style, with authentic characters eager to rid themselves of the straitjacket of God and the Church. Walschap became the Godfather of a generation of writers opposing the Catholic Church, such as Louis Paul Boon, Marnix Gijsen and Hugo Claus.

In Walschap’s earlier work, his turbulent relationship with the Catholic Church was already evident. He had his characters pondering on desire and conjugal ethics in his successful novel ‘Adelaïde’, for example. Walschap then began a long struggle against narrow-mindedness, as 'art (has) no meaning (…) unless it seeks the meaning of life’. Walschap wanted to make the novel a platform for debating all mankind’s major problems. He turned steadily more blatantly away from religion toward the vitalistic power of instinct and man in his natural state, who was cursed with a great impetuosity. The novel Houtekiet was the climax of this evolution and is far removed from the romantic poetry and moralising plays he wrote at the beginning of his career. In other books, Walschap describes society in all its forms and extremes, as in the story collections ‘People’ and ‘Death in the Village’. His novel ‘Black and White’ deals with collaboration, Nazism and repression after World War II. And ‘Revolt in Congo’ attempts to grasp colonisation and the clash between black and white civilisation.

Walschap received several literary prizes including, in 1968, the prestigious Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren.

Photo © Veerle Daelman