Having graduated in Germanic Languages at KU Louvain, Mark Schaevers went on to work as a publishing editor and as a journalist with Humo weekly and De Standaard newspaper, dealing mainly with political and literary subjects. In Oostende, de zomer van 1936 (Oostende, the Summer of 1936, 2001) he describes the world of exiled artists and intellectuals of the interwar period in the face of rising Fascism. It is also the subject of his latest book Orgelman. Felix Nussbaum. Een schildersleven (Organ Man. Felix Nussbaum. Life of a Painter, 2014), the first non-fiction title to receive a Gouden Boekenuil. In this biography Schaevers meticulously reconstructs the painter’s zeitgeist, his life and wanderings around Europe, until his final demise in a concentration camp. That the author is also a capable editor is evident from De wolken: uit de geheime laden van Hugo Claus (The Clouds: From the Secret Drawers of Hugo Claus), in which he presents an unfamiliar Hugo Claus highlighting a selection of papers from the master’s estate. Schaevers’s work has been translated into German and French.
Organ Man. Felix Nussbaum—A Painter’s Life
Galiani Berlin Verlag, 2016
Translated by Marlene Müller-Haas
Original title: Orgelman. Felix Nussbaum – een schildersleven (De Bezige Bij, 2014)
Organ Man tells of the miraculous rebirth of an artist destroyed by Hitler: Felix Nussbaum. If his life in exile from 1933 onwards was difficult, at the end of the war it was burned to the ground. Like his wife Felka Platek, Nussbaum did not return from the last transport to the East from the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen. Nothing was left of his paintings or the great fame he enjoyed in Berlin between the wars. And yet half a century later his native city of Osnabrück has built a museum for him and today he is regarded as one of the most important Jewish painters of the twentieth century.
How this wandering organ man managed to find an echo after all is an extraordinary and exciting element of the history of the Low Countries that has waited until now to be told.
With Organ Man Mark Schaevers has written not just a moving biography of the painter Felix Nussbaum but a masterly portrait of an insane era.
Schaevers manages to get closer and closer to his characters until it almost takes the reader’s breath away. Words fail me. This is a book you will never forget.