Paul van Ostaijen


Biography of Paul van Ostaijen

Paul van Ostaijen poet

Paul van Ostaijen (22 February 1896 – 18 March 1928) was a Belgian poet and writer.

Van Ostaijen was born in Antwerp. His nickname was Mister 1830, derived from his habit of walking along the streets of Antwerp clothed as a dandy from that year.

His poetry shows influences from Modernism, Expressionism, Dadaism and early Surrealism, but Van Ostaijen's style is very much his own.

Van Ostaijen was an active flamingant, a supporter of Flemish independence. Because of his involvement with Flemish activism during World War I, he had to flee to Berlin after the war. In Berlin—one of the centers of Dadaism and Expressionism—he met many other artists. He also struggled through a severe mental crisis.
Upon returning to Belgium, Van Ostaijen opened an art gallery in Brussels. He died of tuberculosis in 1928 in a sanatorium in Miavoye-Anthée, in the Wallonian Ardennes.

The Czech poet Ivan Wernisch was so impressed by "the genius of van Ostaijen" that he learned Flemish to be able to translate him. His translation was published as Tanec gnómů, Dance of the gnomes, in 1990.

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The Old Man

An old man in the street
his simple tale to the old woman
it's nothing it sounds like a tenuous tragedy
his voice is white
it resembles a knife that's been whetted for so long
the steel has worn thin
This voice hangs outside him like an object
above his long black coat
The lean old man in his black coat

[Hata Bildir]