About Maurice Maeterlinck

Maurice Maeterlinck, in his time renowned, has been obscured by the contingencies of history. Maeterlinck was born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1862. Though long in coming, his rise to literary stardom was swift; in 1889 his first play, Princess Maleine, was read by an influential French critic, who proclaimed him to be a greater than Shakespeare.

Maeterlinck’s drama, originally Symbolist, rejected the prevalent naturalism of the day, exploring instead the unspoken, the abstract, and the miraculous. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1911 and later knighted, Maeterlinck’s fame was assured when he wrote The Bluebird, which has been adapted into a film several times, once starring Shirley Temple and another version starring Elizabeth Taylor. His books on mysticism were bestsellers, and when he came to New York He was honored with a ticker-tape parade; he was named the first honorary president of the PEN Club.

Since his death in 1949 his name plummeted in value. Yet the spare and psychologically unsettling nature of his early work was a key inspiration for dramatists as varied as August  Strindberg, Samuel Beckett, and Antonin Artaud, and his influence is indirectly still felt today. Maeterlinck is therefore the unspoken godfather of our avant-garde.

 

FOR MORE ON MAURICE MAETERLINCK: Read David Willinger's A Life in Counterpoint to a Work

AND Daniel Gerould's Maeterlinck Reader