Marnix Gijsen (1899-1984), a pseudonym for Jan Albert Goris, was born in Antwerp. He obtained a PhD in history and moral sciences at the Catholic University of Leuven and went on to study at the Universities of Freiburg, Paris (Sorbonne) and London (London School of Economics). He started his literary career as a poet in the expressionist group ‘Ruimte’ (Space), publishing his poems in their magazine. He also came into contact with the well-known expressionist poet Paul van Ostaijen.
Marnix Gijsen’s most important poem was ‘Praise of Saint Francis of Assisi’ (Loflitanie van de Heilige Franciscus van Assisië). During World War II, he broke with his Roman Catholic faith and adopted an attitude to life based on stoicism. This became apparent in his first novel, ‘The Book of Joachim Of Babylon’ (Het boek van Joachim van Babylon). Thereafter, he published a series of novels, including ‘Good and Evil’ (Goed en kwaad), Lament for Agnes (Klaaglied om Agnes), ‘The Diaspora’ (De diaspora) and ‘Self-portrait, flattered of course’ (Zelfportret gevleid natuurlijk).
Gijsen was a kind of moralist, who nonetheless went entirely his own way, but constantly juxtapositioned and dissected good and evil. He won several awards for his literary work, not least the Belgian State Prize for Narrative Prose in 1959 and the Dutch-Flemish Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren in 1974. In 1975 he was made a baron.
Photo Collection Letterenhuis, Antwerp