Maurice Gilliams was born in 1900 in Antwerp, Belgium, where he lived for the rest of his life until 1982. In Flanders and the Netherlands, Gilliams is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, even though his entire œuvrewith only sixty-eight poems in totalis contained in just one volume, a book he entitled Vita Brevis (“short life” in Latin, only suggesting the wish for an ars longa, a “lasting art”).
The son of a Flemish printer and a French-speaking mother from an old bourgeois family, Gilliams grew up bilingually. He decided that Dutch suited his poetic purposes best, which was to isolate fragments of a life in words, personal and detached at once, hard and true like stones. Being a poet in everything he produces, Gilliams also
wrote lyrical novels (the most famous of which is Elias ), essays on artists and fellow poets, and diaries.
Further, Gilliams earned a living as a printer, teacher of typesetting and calligraphy, librarian for the Royal Museum of Fine arts in Antwerp, and finally, director the Flemish Academy of Dutch Language and Literature. Toward the end of his life Gilliams was awarded the most important literary prizes of the Low Countries and given the title of baron when he was eighty years old.
BOOKS OF POETRY:
Vita brevis: verzamelde werken (Antwerp: C. De Vries-Brouwers, 1955-1959; Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1984); Verzamelde Gedichten (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff/Gent: Poëziecentrum, 1993).
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS:
The Bottle at Sea: The Complete Poems, trans. by Marian de Vooght (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2006).