Jef Geeraerts (1930-2015) was born in Antwerp. The bourgeois environment from which he originated and his experience as a civil servant in the Belgian Congo left their mark on his literary work. After Congo’s independence in 1960, he returned, desperate, to Belgium and began to write. In 1962, he started studying languages at the University of Brussels. He published his debut in 1962 and built up an impressive body of works. His Gangrene Cycle, a controversial series of four novels in which the author recounts his experiences in the Belgian army in Congo, gained him international acclaim. These books have been through dozens of printings and translated into numerous languages.
Gangrene 1 - Black Venus is one of the most talked-about novels from post-war Flanders. The controversy surrounding the publication was astounding. Applauded as brilliant, then decried for ‘extolling racism and pornography’; however shocked conformist Belgium might have been, no-one could really deny that it was seldom that a writer had approached such a sensitive subject with such monumental daring.
From the 1980s, Geeraerts devoted himself to writing crime novels. Typically, while his writing style in his Congo books is racy, without full-stops or commas, in his crime novels he works methodically, paying great attention to detail. In addition to novels, Geeraerts also wrote travel stories, journalistic pieces and stage and radio plays. Nature, hunting, foreign cultures and eroticism are recurring elements in his work.
Photo © Sven van Baarle