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 like ‘The Leavetaking’ (Het afscheid ) in 1957 and, the following year, with the beginning of his ‘Journal Brut’. In 1963, however, he made a totally fresh start with ‘Book Alpha’ (Het boek Alfa). 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 compared him 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 up as major innovative writing over the years since, in effect introducing postmodern fiction into Flemish literature.
In 1979, Michiels retired to a village in France to devote himself to another ambitious new endeavour, the ten-volume series ‘Journal brut’. His last novel ‘Maya Maya’ was posthumously published in 2013, one year after his death.
Photo © Sven van Baarle