Yvan de Maesschalck: “My dearest wish is for peace to be established and safeguarded in all parts of the world…”

Σας παρουσιάζουμε τον Yvan de Maesschalck, Belgium

Επιμέλεια συνέντευξης: Εύα Πετροπούλου Λιανού

Please share your thoughts about the future of literature… When did you start writing? I might answer with a cliché and say I have always written something one way or another. But that would be unfair and somewhat mystifying. Before I really committed to paper any words which were meant for publishing I read voraciously, mostly books/poetry in my native tongue, but gradually also in French, English and German. I took up writing seriously in my late thirties, when I worked pretty hard on essays that dealt with contemporary or canonical Dutch authors (like Cyriel Buysse, Eriek Verpale or Willem Frederik Hermans).  When I had some time left I tried my hand at pieces of criticism, which I am still in a habit of writing, mostly about recently published volumes of poetry. As a feelance critic I regularly contribute to the literary magazine Poëziekrant (Poetry Magzine) and a digital platform, MappaLibri. The poems I have written so far were mostly inspired by specific circumstances, so you might call them essentially “occasional”. This is how my first volume, The Walls of Meknes, came into being. You might consider it a sort of “travelogue”, lined with personal experiences.

The Good and the Bad. Who is winning at the moment? If I interpret this question rightly, it bears on the (im)balance of political powers in the world at large? I am not a politician or politologist, but what is evolving in the Ukraine at the moment is highly disturbing. My feeling is that Western countries, including the United States, will highly profit – or are highly profiting – from this inhuman and utterly unfair state of affairs. There will be no direct military intervention on “our” part, but the worldwide crisis (in terms of democracy, energy and ecology) will of course only be deepened or increased by it. I do wish the European Union were more determined to take a stand and affect both Biden’s and Putin’s policies. But I’m afraid this is not likely to be the case. So if you ask me who the bad and the good are, I would answer I see very little reason for any optimism at all. At the moment there are hardly any winners, at least not in a moral sense of the word…

How many books have you written? And where can we find your books? I have published a number of books, mostly on poetry and the literary afterlife (Nachlebung) of the long epic poem Reynard the Fox, an important Middle Dutch version of which has survived in the Low Countries. As a member of the locally based Reynard Society, which edits a book (called Tiecelijn, after the tale-bearing raven’s name) annually, I regularly write essays or pieces of criticism on sundry topics. My most important contributions/findings hav been collected in Vossenlucht (Academia Press Ghent, 2016) and The Walls of Meknes (Demer Press, 2020). I am now trying my very best at producing a new volume of poetry, in which I poetically reflect on the protagonists and supporting characters of Reynard the Fox. The volume is still “under construction” but nearing its final stage, and will probably be published by the Reynard Society itself. Its preliminary title is The Fox’s Evil, but the definitive one may well run somewhat differently.

The book. E book or Hardcover book. What will be the future? I am so fond of books I can touch and smell I can hardly imagine a future without them. But I realise both digital and analogical scripts will have to bear and share each other’s existence. A matter of vital co-existence, so to speak. But libraries and bookshops will continue to be around for a very, very long time.

A wish for 2023. A phrase from your book. My dearest wish is for peace to be established and safeguarded in all parts of the world, even in the remotest nooks and crannies of planet Earth. I am well aware, however, this is not to be… Being invited to quote a line from a poem (yet to be issued) I would gladly single out the following one: ‘an odour / which deeply disrupts me stalks/ the premises’. It may, somewhat menacingly, apply to many places and circumstances at the very moment. Unfortunately so.