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A moving story about origins, mourning and language

White is Always Nice

Leo Pleysier

‘White is Always Nice’ is the extended monologue of an old woman who has just died but cannot stop talking. In a one-sided conversation with her silent son, who is presumably imagining all this, she keeps up her usual non-stop chatter as her body is laid out and preparations are made for the wake. Her gossip about the neighbours, her stories about family and the war, her gentle chiding and hilarious non-sequiturs, make her a captivating character.

A moving book with a rich and functional recounting of anecdotes
Het Parool

Not only are we granted a glimpse into the lively mind of this simple farmer’s wife and mother of six, but we are also given a powerful sense of her interlocutor – the son, who doesn’t say a word until the very end, but whose silences speak volumes. Indeed, the white gaps on the page separating the mother’s soliloquies become a strong visual metaphor (with a nod to the book’s title) for both the son’s grief and his stoic acceptance of his mother’s shortcomings.

With a beautiful light touch, Pleysier shows how someone can delay the death of a loved one
NRC Handelsblad
'Magnificent and Flemish to the core'
Sven Gatz, Flemish Minister of Culture

‘If I have a visitor who’s interested in the contents of my bookcase, my index finger has been inclined from time to time to caress the spine of Leo Pleysier’s ‘White is Always Nice’. ‘Ever heard of it?’ I ask. ‘It’s magnificent and Flemish to the core’, I say, ‘about a dead mother and her son, about lamenting and complaining, written with restrained rancour, but at the same time with so much love and respect. It’s a moving story about origins, mourning and language.’

The story begins with the son standing at his elderly mother’s deathbed. Marie has talked him to a standstill his entire life with her vernacular wisdom and simple language. Her monologue charms the son and through him the reader with its endearing simplicity and folksiness. But Leo Pleysier’s skill and ingenuity allows him to introduce love and warmth beyond shame into the mother’s dialect and to smuggle in respect far above condescension.

Before the son can let her go, he has to want her back. It is this mighty and recognisable description of the mix of emotions we face when a person who has dominated our life is suddenly no longer with us that struck me most about ‘White is Always Nice’.’