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A moving novel of longing and deprivation

The Unexpected Answer

Patricia de Martelaere

In ‘The Unexpected Answer’, the author gives the floor to six different women. All six are enthralled by the poet Godfried H. Four have a relationship with the married Godfried, a man who likes blue silk shirts, eats cheese crusts and snores.

Esther (who is painting a portrait of him), the scientist Clara, Sybille (who is in therapy with Godfried’s psychiatrist wife), and Marina (his former student), are perpetually torn between their desires and their determination to turn their back on him. None of them can call the man her own, and as a result he is no longer the man his wife Anna can call her own.

Rare enthusiasm and concentration encourage to leaf back – eager to follow the story yet unwilling to miss a thing.
De Volkskrant

‘The Unexpected Answer’ is a sultry book, full of insatiable passion that explodes in the penultimate chapter ‘The Love Letter’, an amalgam of letter fragments written by the collective of women circling Godfried H., and ultimately a single woman who appears in different guises.

A bizarre deep sea of vortices, speedboats and rapids, full of colour, sounds, clear water, and pure poison.
De Standaard
‘The black and white photographer of human obsessions’
Elisabeth Leijnse, professor of literature at the University of Namur

‘Patricia de Martelaere is one of the most unique and intelligent writers Flanders has ever known. And one of the most mysterious. She didn’t like autobiographical writing, refused to give interviews, and avoided the cameras. The photo on the back cover of her novels was the absolute boundary of her self-communication.

Her philosophical essays are blood-curdling intellectual exercises about the art of loss, and her novels are populated by characters struggling with the fear of being abandoned. They’re people who go shopping at the local supermarket and take the dog for a walk. They try to escape their own psyche, but their self-analysis drives them crazy. They want to escape each other, but are unable to walk away. They desire, implore, command, beg, coerce and despise. Patricia de Martelaere is the black and white photographer of human obsessions.

In ‘The Unexpected Answer’ from 2004, a number of women are obsessed with the same man, Godfried H. Is he a man without a core? Does he really exist? Are these women facets of one and the same eye? The story begins in cool observation and crescendos in rhythmic ecstasy towards a staggering, almost surreal answer. It is not surprising that ‘The Unexpected Answer’ was awarded Flanders’ most prestigious literary prize, the Gouden Uil Reader's Prize.’