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Johan Daisne

Johan Daisne was the pseudonym of Flemish author Herman Thiery (1912-1978). He was born in Ghent and studied Economics and Slavic languages at Ghent University, receiving his doctorate in 1936. In 1945 he was appointed chief librarian of the city of Ghent. Daisne was a member of the Belgian Communist Party for a while, before and during World War II, but his Marxist sympathies waned after the war. His life and work were emphatically marked by the unexpected event of the loss of his first child in 1946 and the loss of his father in 1950.

Daisne began writing poetry in 1935, with the publication of a collection entitled ‘Verses’ (Verzen). This was followed by other poetical works including ‘Ikona Child’ (Ikonakind), inspired by the death of his daughter. Together with Hubert Lampo, Daisne was one of the pioneers of magical realism in Dutch-language literature. His stories combine dream and reality and are often a string of unexpected and astonishing events, resulting in a philosophical view of life. Like Lampo, Daisne extensively described in essays what it meant to write in a magic-realistic style. His vision is based on a world image with two poles that constitute reality: on one side the sober, rational reality and, on the other, the fantastic, irrational dream. Magic realism is generated by the tension between those poles, between which a spark occasionally jumps, according to Daisne.

Daisne’s best-known novels are The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short (De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen) and The Train of Inertia (De trein der traagheid). Both novels were also screened by the Belgian cinematographer André Delvaux, who honours the surreal atmosphere and the subtlety of narration, the use of multi-layered metaphors and the beautiful intertwining of dreams and reality.

Photo Collection Letterenhuis, Antwerp