R.I.P. André-Marcel Adamek

August 31st, 2011 § 0 comments

as of this morning in Belgium. One of Belgium’s finest contemporary storytellers, he wrote more than fifteen books of fiction, poetry, and teleplays. An autodidact in everything he set his hand to, he was, over the course of his varied career, a cruise ship steward, a toymaker, a paper wholesaler, a goat farmer, an editor, and a ghost writer. He invented and patented a stackable bottle carrier a speaking crib. His many awards include the Prix Jean Macé, the Prix triennal du roman, the Prix du Parlement de la Communauté française, and the Prix Rossel, Francophone Belgium’s top literary prize.

Although he scarcely considered himself a fantasist–more a pessimistic humanist–he made liberal use of folktale, magic, and the fantastic in his penetrating studies of human nature, and the ways our lives  mimic mythical patterns, striving clumsily but indefatigably for some eternal quality. His rich language lent realism to the brocade of legend. When I visited him at his farm in Fisenne in early June, lung cancer had already away taken one lung. His prostate cancer was inoperable, and he had recently fractured his shoulder blade. His sturdy house overlooked cows at pasture in the green Ardennes. He smoked a pack and a half of Pall Malls during dinner–“one of the few pleasures left to me“–and the glimmer in the future then animating him was the prospect of being a guest conductor for a December concert of the orchestra in Namur: the realization of a lifelong dream. The efforts he made to show me every courtesy and mask his own suffering were heartbreaking. I only met him once, and I mourn him. He is survived by two sons and his widow Ingrid.

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