Ghent-Wevelgem

If I could start again, I’d do things just as I did: not for a few quid, but for that new racing strip. That gleams and hugs your buttocks and those of your team mates in the peloton. I’d like to train till I die, trailing the other guy a fraction, I’d always bring up…

Twelve Languages, Thirteen Perspectives

In general I am, I’m pretty sure, a privileged if still very limited witness, having been a part-time inhabitant of the Cape for nearly twenty years and remained the most passionate of lovers, for just as long, of the whole blessed glorious pandemonium there on the underside of what we so often call, both properly and improperly, ‘the Dark…

Robbed by a Cheque

In January 1991, Willy Claes, the Belgian Minister of Economic Affairs, approved ‘cheque charges’: users would from then on have to pay for writing out a cheque. In his weekly column in Humo, a Flemish weekly (which invariably ended with the mantra ‘Do it!’), the writer took up arms against the banks. It was the…

Two Extracts

Extract from Everything Must Go In the meantime trucks were speeding past Tony, loudly honking their horns, flashing their headlights and throwing up a curtain of water, which the Transit had to drive through as if it were a waterfall. Just let my windscreen wiper keep working, thought Tony anxiously. The other one had given…

Tom Lanoye, Literary Multinational

Story-writer, novelist, playwright, translator, columnist, pamphleteer and performer, Tom Lanoye (1958-) is a versatile and much talked-about author. During the course of his twenty-year career, he has become an authority in various literary disciplines, but he has also shown himself to be a shrewd commentator on social matters that extend far beyond the realms of literature.…

The Making of a Translator

There was a framed Dutch proverb hanging on the wall in my parents’ house. Embroidered in gold on black satin, it read: ‘Gezelligheid kent geen tijd’ – ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’. It was a gift from the Netherlands, from when my father’s brother had studied classical languages at Utrecht University in the 1950s.…

In Search of Self

New Prose Writing in Dutch after 1985 Revisor Prose The wave of innovation which gave rise to the ‘new’ prose of the 1980s first made its appearance in the Netherlands with the publication in 1974 of the literary journal De revisor. The generation of young writers which it brought to the fore — Dirk Ayelt…

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…

Modern Minstrels

City Poets in the Low Countries The number of city poets in the Netherlands and Flanders is steadily increasing. The present figure for the Netherlands is about thirty. In Flanders only five cities so far have named a city poet: Antwerp, Ghent, Ninove in East Flanders, Damme in West Flanders and Diest in Flemish Brabant,…