A Gaze Trained on the Horizon

Children’s Books in the Low Countries A country by the sea is boundless, or perhaps it would be better to say, it seems boundless. The open water with the distant, intangible horizon urges exploration and adventure, but close by the undulating power of the salt sea and the constant wind cause continual commotion. Inevitably this…

Three Poems and Two Extracts

Matador That death like a man dressed in red trickles Down the curve of the hill, until it comes to a stop round your feet as naturally as a mirror relaxing around your feet before shattering. (Inside-out man who draws me to him and buttons me up like a golden jacket; from the heavens roses…

In the Belly of the Boa

The Work of Peter Verhelst Until recently Peter Verhelst (1962-) was one of Flemish literature’s best-kept secrets. True, his disturbing poetry and novels had been much praised by critics and a select band of readers; but he seemed too difficult for the public at large. But although the level of difficulty is no whit reduced,…

Knife-Throwing

She stands motionless, chalk-white, waiting. Rigid with desire. When I look at her she lies prone, bleeds from one breast. She breathes hard, leaning half against me. I hold sleep at bay so that I can feel her. I kiss, I draw breath. She puts her arms round my head, kisses me again, says from…

Writer in the Public Debate

On Stefan Hertmans Since he was first profiled in this yearbook (The Low Countries 1998-1999), the Flemish-Belgian writer Stefan Hertmans (born 1951) has developed significantly as an artist. Hertmans started out as a poet but came to the attention of the general public primarily as a novelist, with books such as Terug naar Merelbeke (Back…

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…