The Scattered ‘I’

The Ambivalent Work of Paul de Wispelaere The work of the Flemish writer, essayist and critic Paul de Wispelaere (1928-) is highly characteristic of the development of literature and literary criticism in Dutch during the second half of the twentieth century. When he came on the scene in the mid-sixties, De Wispelaere was much impressed…

The Everyday is Good

The Novels of Koen Peeters Conversaties met K. (Conversations with K., 1988), the first novel of Koen Peeters (1959), sports a stamp from the Belgian Congo on its cover. Almost a quarter of a century later the Leuven author published Duizend heuvels (A Thousand Hills, 2012), his great novel about the small neighbouring country of…

Past Imperfect, Present Continuous

Belgian Current Affairs in Flemish Literature The political and social upheavals of Belgium’s recent troubled past have not left Flemish literature untouched. In the literary world they gave rise to a brief but vigorous debate about politics and literature, social commitment and belles-lettres. However, the creative fall-out of all this has been rather meagre. In…

Extract from ‘Chapel Road’

In the Room over the Café Vapeur didn’t see his daughter leaving for good . . . he was drunkenly blathering his world language . . . he sang; he sang his grief away and he sang in order to get enough courage to start on that gutter tomorrow … he’d have to start on it,…

Against the Status Quo

Louis Paul Boon in a Wider Literary Context Louis Paul Boon (1912-1979) stands apart from other Flemish writers of his generation because of his insistence on finding his own voice. That distinct voice combines a rootedness in Boon’s own particular Flemish locality — the outskirts of Aalst, a provincial Flemish town — with an emphatic and even aggressive…

Postmodernism in the Literature of the Low Countries

The Dutch language area, like the rest of Europe, did not see the term postmodernism come into use until the early 1980s. The interest generated by this new ‘concept of criticism’ soon gave rise to a welter of publications, all more or less inspired by Jean-Francois Lyotard’s philosophical essay, The Postmodern Condition (La condition postmoderne,…