How to be as immodest as possible

Erwin Mortier (1965) spent his childhood in the village of Nevele, in the vicinity of his native city of Ghent. In 1999 his debut novel Marcel was awarded five literary prizes, among them the debut prizes of both the Netherlands and Flanders. The novel also received acclaim throughout Europe and was published in translation by major publishing houses like Harvill, Fayard and Suhrkamp.

In 2000 Mortier published his second novel, My fellow skin, shortly followed by a third, Shutterspeed. Both books were nominated for the IMPAC Dublin literary award, and Shutterspeed also got on the shortlist for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

As a poet Mortier made his debut in 2001 with Forgotten Light, which received the Cees Buddingh’prize of Poetry International Rotterdam for the best debut in poetry. More verse followed in 2005 with From one finger on cannot fall, a prayerbook for nonbelievers, and in 2009 with an overview of his poetical production of  ten years, To the city and the world. All my poems op till now.

As an essayist Mortier came out of the closet with A plea for sinning , a collection of polemics and meditations on culture and politics (2003). In A taste of nowhere (2005) he explored his own development as a writer. His latest collection of essays, What is past is just beginning (2010) offers a broad view on the art of literature and is also a further exploration of his own literary past.

In Evenings on the Estate. Travelling with Gerard Reve (2007), Mortier paints a poignant and sometimes exhilarating portrait of the old Dutch writer Gerard Reve (1923 – 2006), one of the most prominent voices of post-war Dutch literature, with whom Mortier spent a holiday in France, in the summer of 1997, two years before he himself made his debut.

A similar adventure is described in A farewell to Congo. Back to the equator with Jef Geeraerts (2010), a diary of his journey to Congo with his friend Jef Geeraerts, the Flemish author who in his early novels evoked Belgium’s troubled colonial period in Central Africa.

Mortier’s latest novel, While the Gods were sleeping (2008), a panoramic view of the First World War in Belgium and Northern France, was hailed as a masterpiece and a magnum opus. The book received the Ako Literature Prize 2009, one of the most prestigious prizes in the low countries.

In 2011 Mortier published Stammered Songs. A Mother's Book of Hours, a personal and highly moving portrait of his mother, who at the age of 57 developed Alzheimer's disease.

As a tribute to some of the voices that inspired his novel while the Gods were sleeping Mortier translated into his native Dutch the war prose of Ellen N. La Motte, Mary Borden and Enid Bagnold. And in April 2013 the Low Countries saw his translation of Virgina Woolf's Between the Acts, the first time Woolf's last novel was translated into Dutch.

And in March 2014 came the publication of his latest novel, The Reflections, a compagnion novel to While the Gods were sleeping.

Mortier regularly contributes to newspapers and literary magazines in Holland and Flanders and the rest of Europe.