From Writer at his Own Expense to Public Phenomenon

On the Work of J.J. Voskuil It was front-page news on 26 May 1998. ‘J.J. Voskuil wins Libris Prize’ read the headline in the NRC Handelsblad, a much respected Dutch newspaper. The writer J.J. Voskuil had been named as winner of an important literary prize sponsored by a Dutch bookstore chain. A photo shows the…

Martinus Nijhoff, a Dutch Master of Modernism

Martinus Nijhoff (1894-1953) belongs among the most important poets to have emerged from the Dutch-speaking countries in the twentieth century. He has always striven to make his poetry as timeless as possible and, given that he is still one of his country’s most widely read poets, he seems to have succeeded wonderfully. Nijhoff can be…

Cocooning with a View

Glocal Literature by Pol Hoste When he’s in Montreal, to him forever Montréal, his thoughts often drift back to when he was a young boy sitting with his family staring in silence at a sooty black cauldron full of pig swill. But when he’s at home in his own little back garden, it’s as if he’s (almost) swamped…

It’s a Matter of Awareness

An Extract from Herman Brusselmans’ Diary of a Weary Egoist Today I smoked about sixty cigarettes, I think — well, probably a few more. Exactly how many, I don’t know. Since the day I smoked exactly sixty-four (the seventh of January 1987), I’ve given up counting. I don’t count the drink any more either. I’ve…

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

The Uses of Reality in the Prose of Walter van den Broeck When Baudouin, King of the Belgians, died suddenly on 31 July 1993, the media released a deluge of mournful prose, much of it maudlin kitsch, on their shattered readers. The writer Walter van den Broeck also reached for his pen, for if so…

The Father of Angels

A Novel by Stefan Brijs A fascination with the unusual was already apparent in earlier work by the Flemish writer Stefan Brijs (1969-). In his second novel, Eagle (Arend, 2000) all attention is focused on a sluggish overweight young man trying to rise above and fly beyond the vale of tears in which he finds…

Anything I set my hand to falls to bits

An Extract from J.M.H. Berckmans’ The Investigation Begins Fits of depression, manic spells, a failed marriage, 12 different jobs and 13 disasters, one attempt at suicide. The utter hopelessness of an existence on the fringes of society, with a few shreds of comfort from beer, tobacco, and a bit of warm food. Despair, paranoia, sadism,…

A Total Eclipse of the Heart

About Dirk van Bastelaere It is one of the pillars of Dirk van Bastelaere’s poetry – and a crucially ironic one, I believe – that a poem is never self-evident. The same could probably be said of everyone, except for the odd dishevelled poetaster here and there, but I’m not talking about technical difficulties in…