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The bilingual volume which earned Michaël Vandebril the 2013 Herman de Coninck Debut Prize is an ode to Maurice Maeterlinck 1862-1949, the Fleming who won a Nobel Prize for Literature for his writings in French. Vanderbril 1972 has both feet firmly on the ground, with a solid position as director of Antwerp Boekenstad, a literary project managed by the city of Antwerp, a wife and father of three. His first volume, ‘Het vertrek van Maeterlinck / L'exile de Maeterlinck’, immediately earned him the Herman de Coninck Debut Prize. “We award the first work of a poet who accomplishes with 33 poems what other struggling poets need a whole lifetime for,” the jury report states. Every poem has been translated by two award-winning translators.
It’s not surprising that 'Serres Chaudes', Maeterlinck’s first volume, always contains 33 poems. Three of Vandebril’s sources of inspiration, Maeterlinck, Max Elskamp 1862-1931 and Emile Verhaeren 1855-1916 all grew up in Flanders, their work is a testimony to the River Scheldt, and they all wrote in French. “In their time they enjoyed international acclaim chiefly for their specific identity. The fact that my volume is bilingual is not a political statement, but it does convey a message: Belgium is a place where the Roman and Germanic cultures fuse, collide and fertilise each other. Much of Flemish art and literature is influenced by this friction, which could serve to strengthen our identity. That is even acknowledged abroad. Identity does not have a monolithic nature.”
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