Eekhoud was a regionalist best known for his ability to represent scenes from rural and urban daily life. He tended to portray the dark side of human desire and write about social outcasts and the working classes.
Eekhoud was born in Antwerp. A member of a fairly well-off family, he lost his parents as a young boy. When he came into his own he started working for a journal. First as a corrector, later he contributed a serial. In 1877, the generosity of his grandmother permitted young Eekhoud to publish his first two books, Myrtes et Cyprès and Zigzags poétiques, both volumes of poetry. In the beginning of the 1880s Eekhoud took part in several of the modern French-Belgian artist movements, like Les XX (= The Twenty) and La Jeune Belgique (= Young Belgium). Kees Doorik, his first novel was published in 1883, about the wild life of a tough young farmhand who committed a murder. The renowned free-thinking publisher Henri Kistemaeckers brought out a second edition three years later. Eekhoud received some guarded praise by famous authors like Edmond de Goncourt and Joris-Karl Huysmans who both sent Eekhoud a personal letter. For his second prose book, Kermesses (= Fairs, 1884), not only Goncourt and Huysmans praised him, but also Émile Zola, about whom Eekhoud had written an essay in 1879.
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