Albrecht Rodenbach

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Writers and critics

Albrecht Rodenbach statute in Roeselare, Belgium
Albrecht Rodenbach statute in Roeselare, Belgium

Albrecht Rodenbach (* 27 October 1856 in Roeselare, Belgium; † 23 June 1880 in Roeselare) was a Flemish poet, and a leader in the revival of Flemish literature that occurred in the late 19th Century.

Rodenbach was born into a bourgeois family, the eldest of 10 children and cousin to the novelist Georges Rodenbach. Albrecht Rodenbach’s father was Julius Rodenbach (1824-1915) from the Rhineland, and his mother was Silvia de la Houttre (1834-1899). Although his mother was a Walloon from Doornik, she had adopted the Dutch spoken in Roeselare.

Rodenbach attended the small catholic seminary in Roeselare where he was exposed to the ideas of the Flemish movement by Hugo Verriest and others. Rodenbach was also influenced at this time by Guido Gezelle. In the 1874-1875 school year, this led to a conflict between the Flemish students and the school’s francophile director. At the annual songfest the students traditionally sang French songs, Rodenbach led the protest and the predominately Dutch speaking students sang a protest song in Dutch. This protest led to similar protests all over Belgium. Despite this and other activist activities, Rodenbach graduated with a first in rhetoric in 1876.

At the University of Leuven he met the poet Pol de Mont who was a year older. Together they sought to promote a Flemish artistic revival and equal rights for Flemish students as a student movement, creating the “Algemene Vlaamse Studentenbond” (All Flemish Student Association) in 1876. Among their objectives were to have classes in Dutch and to have classes include Flemish culture. The association’s illustrated magazine Het Pennoen (The Pennant) published Rodenbach’s essays anonymously. Rodenbach maintained his contacts in Roeselare through a committee of correspondence. Their ideology was a mixture of the philosophy Guido Gezelle, with the romantic nationalism of Hendrik Conscience, and the righteousness of true belief. Additionally Rodenbach made contacts with the Flemish liberals, poet Jan van Beers and author Max Rooses.

In 1876 Rodenbach published some essays under the pseudonym “Harold”. His book Eerste Gedichten (First Poems) was published in 1878. The rest of his work, including his verse play Gudrun, a dramatized epic of the Vikings, was not published until after his death.

Rodenbach died before his 24th birthday, and almost immediately became the pre-eminent symbol of the Flemish student movement. On Rodenbach’s death, Pol de Mont took over the leadership of the “Algemene Vlaamse Studentenbond”.

Rodenbach was known at the time of his death for his songs, poems and tonal-works which have remained inspiring symbols for the Flemish movement. He was the inspiration for Hendrik Conscience’s novel Kerels van Vlaanderen. Flandria Film made a film about him in 1930 entitled Albrecht Rodenbach and directed by Clemens De Landtsheer.

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