Ivo Michiels (1923-2012) rose during the post-war years as one of the most talented of a group of Flemish writers, including Louis Paul Boon and Hugo Claus. Michiels began as a filmmaker before turning to fiction with a number of traditional novels. In 1963, however, he made a totally fresh start with ‘Book Alpha’. Inspired by the French nouveau roman, this work in effect introduced the experimental novel into Flemish literature. Along with the second of what came to be called The Alpha Cycle, ‘Orchis Militaris’, Michiels gained an international reputation that saw him compared with his fellow countryman Hugo Claus as well as Samuel Beckett. The Alpha Cycle continues to influence several younger generations of Flemish writers, and has stood the test of time as major innovative writing, in effect introducing postmodern fiction into Flemish literature.
Peter Verhelst, who is sometimes described as ‘Ivo Michiels’ literary son’, described the author and his work as follows: ‘If anyone in Dutch-language literature has managed to link Van Ostaijen, Beckett, Joyce, Nabokov and Borges it’s Michiels.’
Photo © Sven van Baarle