Het Dwaallicht van Willem Elsschot, een parabel van het interpreteren

Jacques De Visscher, Existentiële Hermeneutiek als opdracht.

The short novel, Will-o’-the-Wisp (‘Het dwaallicht’) by the Antwerpian (Belgian) author Willem Elsschot, narrates how one night Laarmans, a somewhat tired middle-aged husband and father, accompanies three Afghan seamen on a search for a woman, Maria Van Dam. The search leads them through the harbouring city, and ultimately fails. The work is enigmatic and invites the reader to engage with it creatively, adventurously and not without commitment. The reader discovers in this way not only what it means to interpret, but also that by questioning one’s own contribution in the understanding of being, interpretation serves as a challenge to clarify one’s existence. The enigma of Will-o’-the-Wisp is never solved, but the search for understanding what happened during that nightly search provides a model for every practical methodology of hermeneutics, and can therefore be considered a parable about the nature of interpretation.

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