Patricia de Martelaere studied philosophy at the University of Louvain and obtained her doctorate with a thesis on the scepticism of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. She currently teaches at the universities of Brussels and Louvain. She has published two novels and four collections of essays on philosophical, literary and psychological subjects.
In 2002 she made her début as a poet with a collection entitled Niets dat zegt (Nothing that says).
A philosopher quoted extensively in De Martelaere’s essays is Ludwig Wittgenstein. She says about him in an interview: ‘Wittgenstein tried to find out how far a philosopher can go in meaningful speech. He was very strict on this point. The facts of the world can be discussed and described sensibly, he argued – and that is where it ends. The great questions concerning the meaning or the value of life are outside the reach of meaningful philosophical discourse.’ In her essays and novels, Patricia de Martelaere the writer incessantly tries to speak of that which, according to Wittgenstein, the philosopher must remain silent: why are we here, what is the deeper meaning of man’s existence, how reliable is our sense of familiarity with reality; what is love, death, nothingness, etcetera. In the light of Wittgenstein’s belief that poetry, when all is said and done, is better suited to meeting man’s need of a broader view, it is not surprising that Patricia de Martelaere has taken to treating her subjects in poems as well as in scholarly essays. Her poetry is condensed, halting, menacing, often. She writes poems that exploit language to the extreme in an attempt to say something about that which is in fact ineffable. Between the words we continuously catch glimpses of the great unknown which lies behind the familiar. Making the unknown tangible is perhaps the greatest merit of this poetry.
[Patricia de Martelaere took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2002. This text was written on that occasion.]