Letter to Boudewijn
‘Letter to Boudewijn’ is framed as a single long letter from a Flemish author – Walter van den Broeck – to Boudewijn I, King of the Belgians, occasioned by the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Kingdom of Belgium. The author sets out to confront the king with the reality kept hidden during previous official visits. The king is exposed to this hard reality during an incognito visit to the working class district of Olen, the place in which the author was born. The imaginary tour reveals the pathetic conditions in which the inhabitants live and describes how they escape their misery in football, cards, pigeons, the lottery and other dreams.
Moving, interesting and a literary jewel in terms of its formVrij Nederland
‘Letter to Boudewijn’ is thus a lesson in social history, a meticulous description of village life, and an autobiography all in one. It is a book in which the author confronts himself with his origins, with the shift from material to spiritual poverty, and with sorrow at the loss of solid ground in a group of people who stick together.
‘We wanted to offer Walter van den Broeck our sincere gratitude for the magnificent letter he wrote to us. Should we write back? Should we invite him to the palace? Should we prepare a warm welcome with a reception? There were so many possibilities, but none of them met with our complete approval. Suddenly the answer was clear. We would pay him a visit.
So we put on a green Loden coat, took our place in the ‘open voiture’ our chauffeur had parked at the entrance to the palace grounds and minutes later we were whizzing along the highways of Belgian heading to meet the celebrated writer who was waiting for us at the entrance to his village.
We shall never forget that afternoon. He showed as around all the places referred to in his impressive letter. Time flew and it wasn’t long before we had a bit of an appetite. But one location still had to be visited. Moments later we were standing eye to eye in the middle of the square, the infamous school playground. The emotions that took hold of us were simply overwhelming. It was only then that we parted company. We have returned to that moment in his wonderful book time and again, and never without a tear.’
Thank you, dear Walter.
Your monarch Kurt Van Eeghem, greets you most cordially.