An Extract from ‘A Thousand Hills’

Hello young man, come in. How nice of you to come and shave me. I close my eyes. Does this interfere with your work? I can’t see you, but I can feel you. I like the sharpness of your knife, I quite like the way it rasps. The bare sound cleanses me. Mind my throat,…

Two Extracts from ‘Great European Novel’

Mission statement I want to write a book in the style of the Great American Novel, disguised as a Great European Novel. I’ve googled it and there’s no such thing as yet. Sweeping and epic, it should sum up the history of European humanity, but from the narrow perspective of people who live or work…

A Poet in Love with Words

Lucebert Translated into English No other twentieth-century Dutch poet made an entrance quite like Lubertus Swaanswijk, alias Lucebert (1924-1994). He seemed to come out of nowhere. Although the picture turns out in retrospect to be slightly romanticised, Lucebert led a wandering existence in the years after World War II. He began to gain a reputation…

‘There Is Infinite Enrichment in Perishing’

Leo Vroman was the sort of poet who seemed to have been around forever and promised to go on for just as long. When I learned to read as a child, a volume of his collected poems entitled Gedichten 1946-1984 (Poems 1946-1984) had recently been published to mark his seventieth birthday. When I first became…

Deeper and Deeper into the Forest

On the Work of Oek de Jong Before the publication of Pier en oceaan (Pier and Ocean, 2012), I asked myself once or twice whether it would be more accurate to refer to the work of Oek de Jong’s ‘pens’ rather than the work of his ‘pen’. After all, each new book bearing his name…

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…