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Stijn Streuvels

Stijn Streuvels (1871-1969) worked as a baker before becoming a writer. He was self-educated and read and spoke several languages, including French, English, German, Danish and Russian. He was also the nephew of the famous Flemish priest-poet Guido Gezelle. In 1905, he gave up his baker’s life to concentrate fully on writing. He moved with his wife and children to the villa Lijsternest (Trush’s Nest), still today a unique spot in Flanders where writers can create literature in peace and quiet.

Along with Cyriel Buysse and Felix Timmermans, Streuvels is one of Flanders’ naturalistic novelists. He wrote many regional novels set against a backdrop of farming life that, more than a century later, still fascinate modern readers with their lyrical descriptions of nature, the recognisable rural characters and the fateful life events. In classics such as ‘The Long Road’ and the well-know story The Flax Field Streuvels portrays a hard agricultural society that no longer exists but which, permeated with nature and the survival instinct, still never fails to catch the imagination. His peer Albert Verwey spoke highly enthusiastically of him: ‘If the sun could write, it would write like Streuvels.’ Streuvels was able to rise above the naturalism of the time, by embodying the universal idea in an almost symbolic writing style. His visionary literary strength has been compared with Van Gogh’s expressive energy. At his best, Streuvels was a master of characterisation, especially in his portrayal of farmers obstinately struggling against the land and against destiny. His epic but lyrical prose style, perfectly suited to his subject, is among the best of its period. Streuvels' work has won innumerable awards and has been translated many times.