Despite being a writer-hermit, J.M.H. Berckmans (1953–2008) had a rock & roll lifestyle. He was an uncompromising chronicler of the margins of society, penning stories and books full of fear, paranoia, alcohol and decay, in a linguistic idiom strongly influenced by Bukowski, Beckett, De Sade and Céline. The ‘ambassador of despair’, as he was known, was a cult author who captured Antwerp’s seamier side. Berckmans is sometimes described as the master of the short story: his raw, overwrought prose lends itself exceptionally well to shorter texts.