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Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949) was a Belgian author, the outstanding exponent of symbolist drama and the author of The Blue Bird and Pelléas and Mélisande.
Maeterlinck was born August 29, 1862, in Ghent and educated in law at the university there. He abandoned the legal profession when he moved to Paris in 1886 and came under the influence of the symbolist poets. Reacting against the prevailing naturalism of French literature, Maeterlinck wrote some symbolist poetry, notably Les serres chaudes (Hothouses, 1889). He is known principally for his plays, for which he received the 1911 Nobel Prize. He lectured in the U.S. in 1921 and spent World War II there. Maeterlinck returned to Europe following the war and died May 6, 1949, in Nice, France.
Maeterlinck's plays are characterized by clear and simple writing, by a dreamlike atmosphere, and by the suggestion rather than the direct expression of ideas and emotions. His early plays are marked by an attitude of profound melancholy and pessimism in the face of evil and death; in his later plays this attitude gives way to a belief in the redeeming power of love and in the reality of human happiness.
His plays include The Princess Maleine (1889); the melancholy fantasy masterpiece Pelléas et Mélisande (1892), made into an opera (1902) by the French composer Claude Debussy; and The Blue Bird (1909), which has become a classic for children. Less popular are Monna Vanna (1902) and The Burgomaster of Stilmonde (1918). Maeterlinck was also the author of many works in prose that deal with philosophic questions and with nature; they include The Treasure of the Humble (1896), The Life of the Bee (1901), and The Intelligence of Flowers (1907).
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