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Friendship and betrayal in Antwerp’s Golden Age

Wild Woman

Jeroen Olyslaegers

Innkeeper Beer is a broken man, scarred by loss and memories. He has lost no fewer than three women in childbirth. His third wife gave birth to a son before she died, while the other two died with a child in their womb. After all these losses, he considers himself to be cursed. 

During the tu
rbulent 1560s, trade is flourishing and Antwerp is thriving. The city is an explosive melting pot of religions, as well as the beating heart of painting, cartography and book printing. Beer’s inn becomes a refuge for freethinkers and trailblazers. But everything is thrown into sharp relief when, through bullish world conquerors, a savage woman, an Inuit, ends up in his inn.

His crowning achievement. Olyslaegers masterfully takes us back to the time of the Great Iconoclasm and Bruegel. *****
De Standaard

Ten years later, Beer, now in Amsterdam, looks back on the events that prompted him to flee his native city and on a tumultuous period that included the Great Iconoclasm and the beginning of the Eighty Years’ War, which turned out to be a turning point in Western history. He looks back on his part in the betrayal of both his friends and the savage woman. While confessing, he keeps justifying his actions, which makes him a master of self-deception.

With his rich, sumptuous and debauched language, Olyslaegers drags you into the dark alleyways of the 16th century. He vividly evokes Bruegel’s time in this in-depth sociological portrait of a city falling apart. ‘Wild Woman’ is a novel about the longing for unity and the discovery of an inner truth, about friendship, community, faith and betrayal. It emerges that sixteenth-century reality has quite a few parallels with this day and age: back then there was also a lot of speculation on the stock market, gossiping and “fake news”.

Olyslaegers reminds us of Shakespeare: warm-blooded and raw, flamboyant and compact, witty and wise.
Het Parool
A dizzying story about a vibrant but also cursed city that must struggle with its many enemies. ****
Het Nieuwsblad