At the end of the nineteenth century, working people in the small industrial town of Aalst live in terrible conditions. There are child labour and dangerous working conditions, and people are housed in slums. Adolf Daens is a priest who starts a new political party combining Christian and socialist ideals, to defend the interests of the working class. His brother Pieter is a journalist who denounces the abuses in the paper. Adolf was elected to parliament but was eventually forced to give up his seat. He continued to represent the struggle against injustice for the people of Aalst, but died in 1907 – penniless and exhausted. His brother Pieter continued his work.
Great because of its simplicity and its instantly gripping truthfulnessGazet van Antwerpen
For years, Louis Paul Boon collected information about the rise of socialism in Aalst and about the radical Christian workers’ movement around Adolf Daens. His research resulted in this monumental book, which is a true Flemish classic. It is a spectacular expression of Boon’s compassion for the committed individual who, despite all adversity, wants to keep on believing in socialist ideals. The novel gained widespread international fame after it was turned into a successful film by Stijn Coninx, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film.
The Flemish working class could not find a better historian than BoonVrij Nederland