Holes beneath the waterline the discourse about the superiority of Western norms and values.
Rachida Aziz dips her pen in vitriol in the best tradition of literary polemic to give the established order a good dressing down. Every day she is confronted with how it feels not to belong. Aziz fights the constraints of society and writes about what she describes as her own process of decolonisation.
When we hear ‘Japan’, we tend to think of geishas, samurai and sumo wrestlers populating a country wedded to ancient customs and traditions. Japan expert Luk Van Haute paints a picture of Japanese society as far more diverse than some would have us believe.
Van den Broeck has a very keen eye. But she also has a great mind. ****
Charlotte Van den Broeck is primarily known as a poet – in that capacity she opened the guest of honour presentation by Flanders and the Netherlands at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2016 – but ‘Bold Ventures’ is her extraordinary and highly distinctive debut as a non-fiction writer.
Having concluded that we’ve never lived so long, so prosperously and so peacefully, philosopher of science Maarten Boudry takes on those he calls doom-mongers and cultural pessimists. The world has never been in a better shape than today, and Maarten Boudry is convinced that the best is yet to come, if only we put our minds to it.
Venice, that city of water and gondolas, is a living memory of more than five centuries, packed to the rafters with cultural history. Walking a fine line between heritage and cliché, this book is intended as a tribute to the artists who have captured the sounds and colours of Venice in their work.
Naima once again brings about a kind of Copernican revolution in the anti-racism story.
Hand in Hand
The public debate about racism and discrimination usually concentrates on shocking injustices, rather than the day-to-day racism that results in what Naima Charkaoui calls micro-injuries, caused by profound and painful experiences that are hard to put into words. What’s more, the culprits are often central to the debate and to the follow-up, while the victim is left out in the cold. This book is a plea for more attention to be paid to the victims of racism.
Many psychological differences between the sexes are not solely the product of upbringing and the cultural environment. Instead they are in part a predictable consequence of millions of years of evolution by natural and sexual selection. This well-written book draws upon the most recent scientific developments as support for its plea to us to rethink our concept of feminism.
Piet de Moor likes to call his books a ‘fricassee’, after a dish popular in Flanders in which all kinds of ingredients are mixed. In this book, centred on the life of J.D. Salinger, he combines fact and fiction to create an intriguing puzzle, a novel as well as a portrait of an era.
Those who have read 'Brutopia' will be seeing this metropolis through different eyes
Since Donald Trump dismissed Brussels as a ‘hellhole’, the city has become world famous. Brussels has its fans, but it is also the most hated city in Belgium and the European Union. In this fascinating and very readable urban biography Pascal Verbeken debunks the widespread clichés and prejudices about contemporary Brussels by looking at its history with all its dreams and failures.
Writer Koen Peeters and painter Koen Broucke, both fascinated by Ostend, wander through the streets in search of the town’s soul. ‘A Room in Ostend’ is a moving and sometimes ironic account of their peregrinations. It is a book about friendship, loss, self-reflection, adventures big and small and the magic that encounters can bring.
Discretion is a conservative word, despite the fact that those who continue to find its purport valuable are anything but conservative in spirit.
‘Discretion’ is a stimulating philosophical essay about a virtue we are in danger of losing but which we need now more than ever. At the same time, it is a criticism of the spirit of our times and a plea for a twilight zone, for refuge from the storm and for mental agility. Discretion is important because it helps us to relate to those things that are important to us.
Love for music, captured in gently flowing sentences.
Does music enrich humanity and society? Over time, philosophers have considered this question with a great deal of scepticism. Alicja Gescinska is convinced that music is more uplifting than it is pernicious.
In 'The Climate Is Us' these two young activists reach out a hand to each of us: to politicians and policy makers, to parents and grandparents, to their peers. They call for change, because the clock is ticking.
This book will resonate for a long time and I do hope it will have a healing effect on society.
This book is more than a reconstruction of a forgotten war year. It offers a new way of understanding World War II, which raises questions that reach far beyond the pitch-black year of 1942. Set against this startling background, the author examines the past, as well as the acceptance and denial of what came to pass.
Bart Van Loo is in top form. The Burgundians is impossible to put down and hits like a sledgehammer. A masterpiece.
‘The Burgundians’ takes the reader on a journey through a thousand years of European history, calling at cities such as Dijon, Paris, Lille, Ghent, Bruges and Delft, up to the time when the Seventeen Provinces arose and the Burgundian Empire came to an end. It tells a scintillating account of pyres and banquets, plagues and jousts, Joan of Arc, Jan van Eyck, Philip the Good and the Golden Fleece.
Empathy is the raw material all his books are made of
This is the true story of a fisherman and his daughter, who fled their home country Vietnam some time ago. Hung crossed the ocean in his small fishing vessel to start a new life in a village behind a high sea wall. Quyen opened a successful restaurant, but is now struggling with an identity crisis.
Lieve Joris views half the world as her village. Therein lies the universal and personal power of her books.
Lieve Joris has acquired an international reputation as an author of non-fiction travelogues. For many years she travelled around Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and more recently China, and considered the world to be her village. Now she has returned to Flanders, to Neerpelt, to the house by the canal where she grew up as the middle child in a chaotic family of nine.
The Father and the Philosopher. Saving the Husserl archives
A story comparable to a novel by Umberto Eco or Dan Brown, except for the fact that it really happened
At first an exciting story about smuggling manuscripts set against the backdrop of the persecution of Jews before and during the Second World War, this book indirectly develops into a history of European philosophy in the twentieth century.
Magnificent book that honours all these coloured voices that are so often left out of the narrative
vileine.com (Hadjar Benmiloud)
A unique cultural history of the 1960s as a global phenomenon. This book deals with the usual counterculture suspects and the Flower Power generation, as well as the sensitivities and tastes of what American President Nixon called the Silent Majority. It takes into account the work of artists from Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia in a dazzling overview that puts the Sixties in a new perspective.
A passionate account about the intangible of music
Mauro Pawlowski, musician
Music is able to move people, to ease their pain, or simply to make them want to dance. But what do we experience exactly listening to Chopin, Pink Floyd or Bob Dylan? Which features characterize our musical experience?
Sex is everywhere. On television, on the streets, on social media – there’s no escaping it. In this book the authors show that our supposed sexual freedom is an illusion. They explore history, culture and science, and their own experiences, to discover the things that restrict our bodies. A real treasure-chest of knowledge which covers many of our unnecessary embarrassments on sexuality.
Spoiler. On television series and world literature
Thought-provoking perspectives and choices
Television series - one of the most important mainstream media - continue the debate initiated by the great classics of world literature. In light-hearted essays leavened with humour, Cloostermans identifies connections between television series and literary classics and analyses what they say about our age and about universal human themes such as identity, meaning and (self-)improvement.
The Excess of Empathy. Towards a Functional Indifference
A multifaceted and nuanced book about a current topic
In times in which social contrasts and social inequality are becoming more and more pronounced, there are loud calls for more empathy. But is empathy always good? Or can we have too much of it? Ignaas Devisch challenges us to reconsider our view of humanity: deep down, aren’t we all not just friends but scoundrels as well?
In April 1878 miners in Bernissart, a Walloon village in the former coal region of the Borinage, came across a vast quantity of dinosaur bones. The remains of some thirty iguanodons were discovered in the clay at a depth of 322 metres. Thanks to the clay, several skeletons had been preserved fully intact.
'Mazel tov' is a compelling, thought-provoking story about children growing up in a Modern Orthodox sect, as seen through the eyes of a young woman who is not Jewish. It gives a unique glimpse of the unfamiliar world for both sides.
Giving new contextual dimensions to a word that is increasingly being used with the exclusive definition of ‘causing harm to others’
We usually think of violence in black and white terms: it is good or bad. Philosophers are expected to provide arguments in support of that perspective. Lode Lauwaert however, believes that such a reductionist view of the world cannot adequately answer complex questions. His ‘Philosophy of Violence’ is an erudite, rich and varied book that encourages the reader to think differently about violence.
The alternation between zooming in to focus on the films and panning out to the world stage works well.
Matthijs de Ridder gives a sparkling account of an artist who was able to embody all the important themes of the 20th century. Using new sources, he casts a fresh glance over the life and work of Chaplin. At the same time, ‘The Age of Charlie Chaplin’ is a phenomenal cultural history of a turbulent period that defines our worldview to this very day.
He embodies his perspective, which is analytic and constantly eager to learn
Forgotten celebrities, hidden masterpieces and unique areas of nature. This logbook is a colourful collection of notes and impressions, experiences and stories about the nature, culture, history and people of Andalusia.
With the inquisitive gaze that characterises all his works, Stefan Brijs takes a first look at the riches of his new home port.
A passionate plea against hate, thirst for revenge and the urge for destruction
El Bachiri transforms the pain he suffered into a message of love and humanity, in which he appeals to western Muslims for a more humanist approach to Islam. ‘A Jihad for Love’ is the answer to the hatred of those who wish to divide us, of those who propagate violence and terrorism.
‘Beyond the Borders’ reads like an ode to the unfathomability of human relationships.
'Beyond the Borders’ is an account of Meulemans' fascinating literary pilgrimage, digging into the history of the American author Glenway Wescott (1901-1987). Right from the very first page this book whisks the reader away to a now-forgotten literary and artistic world in America before and after the Second World War. Gradually, the lives of Meulemans and Wescott become ever more intertwined. Is friendship beyond death possible?
With his talent for well-balanced, focused writing, De Moor now occupies an unrivalled position within Dutch-language literature.
How did the Nazis poison the bustling life of the city? Which communist absurdities were the residents of East Berlin confronted with in the GDR? How did the city transform after ‘die Wende’?
In ‘Berlin. Life in a Divided City’, Piet de Moor goes in search of the soul of the mythical metropolis, a city that suffered like no other during the violent history of the 20th century. The result is an informative and kaleidoscopic book that is truly worth reading.
‘The Fall’ tells the story of five guys who meet by chance over the course of a few years. All five have a single goal: racing, or a career as a professional cyclist to be precise. On the towpath along the river Scheldt, from Ghent to Oudenaarde, they train together: Iljo Keisse, Wouter Weylandt, Dimitri De Fauw, Bert De Backer and Kurt Hovelijnck. Young, virile and popular, they do indeed manage to become professional cyclists. But life is harder than the dream. What once brought them together, racing, just as ruthlessly tears them apart again.
Stroeykens, a physicist at heart, has thought of everything.
What might the end of the world really look like? Should we be worried about the climate, mutating viruses, artificial intelligence and asteroid impacts? Or is that fear just as irrational as that of the medieval cultists who constantly expected another biblical flood to wash away the world?
‘The End of the World’ is a fascinating history of catastrophes, fears and nightmares.
Dewulf’s writing succeeds in making the mundane new again.
No matter what Bernard writes about, he sees the world like a photographer, and analyses each moment in a unique, almost philosophical way. These ‘Late Days’ are marked by melancholy, as parenting increasingly makes way for ticking time.
‘I finally understand why my opponents find it so hard to admit that they are wrong’
Stand-up comedian Wouter Deprez
Why do we so often see two camps emerge that are both convinced they have a monopoly on wisdom? Why do we so love to dig ourselves into the trenches of our own rightness? ‘Why Everyone is Always Right’ is the ideal book to give us more insight into the eccentricities of the human spirit.
An original and refreshing study that does not shrink from taking the shine off some well-worn symbolism.
In this well-documented narrative account, with reference to personal experiences, religious traditions, Western literature and philosophy, cultural, technological and scientific developments, Jan Verplaetse looks for answers to the question of why blood fascinates us, yet instils revulsion in us at the same time.
His most personal and at the same time most universal book
'Abadaringi’ is a sketchbook and an intriguing documentary about the genocide in Rwanda. Janssen draws the landscapes and settings he encounters, and creates portraits of the people he speaks to. He also tells his own story, in handwritten notes. A phenomenal piece of journalism.
Devisch extends to us something we can grasp in order to pull ourselves out of the morass.
Anyone who thinks restlessness is a phenomenon specific to our own times is mistaken. For centuries people have sought a solution to a problem of which they themselves are the cause: an excessively full life. But is restlessness really a problem or one of our primary motivations?
Huet’s writing is quite simply superb: elegant, colourful, lively, with great feeling for detail, witty and never condescending.
Kees 't Hart
Of all the art of the Flemish School, the work of Pieter Bruegel (1525?-1569) seems most typical of the Low Countries. His familiar and much loved paintings turned him into a folkloric icon, even if that does not entirely square with his life story. Leen Huet has written the first proper biography of the sixteenth-century master.
Does anyone seriously think 'theology' is a real subject? See Maarten Boudry’s wonderfully scathing Sokal-style hoax.
Can we survive without illusions? Sure, nobody wants to live in a fiction, but truth can be hurtful or unsettling. Then is it not allowed to bend the truth a little once in a while? Maarten Boudry will have none of it.
Francis Mus displays an expertise not seen before by Cohen’s Canadian critics.
Authority on Cohen Francis Mus portrays the real Cohen and his recurring demons. He searched for and found ‘Cohen pieces’ that never have been written about. This book offers a unique view into Leonard Cohen’s soul.
It brings the reader closer to the origins and the reality of armed jihad than most of the analyses.
Together AlDe’emeh and Stockmans travel to Zarqa in Jordan, the cradle of international jihad and AlDe’emeh’s birthplace in a refugee camp. They returned with surreal stories that make this book unforgettable.
His argument for a collective authority is inspired and well-founded, but also provocative and utopian.
Verhaeghe seeks and finds a new interpretation in groups, which lend authority to an individual or an institution, whether they be parents’ associations, groups of active citizens or shareholders’ meetings.
The Hedwige Polder, the most famous stretch of reclaimed land in the Belgian lowlands, is to be flooded again no matter what. It has become symbolic of old farmland forced to make way for new nature reserves.
With Dewulf, profundity is right on the surface. For anyone taking the trouble to look closely, it is deep enough.
Libris Literature Prize jury
'Raptures' is a comprehensive collection of published pieces by this talented observer. He aims to describe in an accessible way the enchantment he feels when looking at paintings, drawings and photographs, whether by contemporaries or old masters, or indeed at the ever-changing fortunes of his family environment.
In Lauwaert’s hands the essay has found an innovator
'Perfectly Tailored'is a collection of Dirk Lauwaert’s most important writings about fashion, clothing and film costumes. He writes just as brilliantly about the hilarious aspects of a pattern as about the impudence of Helmut Newton, or about the ethereal Audrey Hepburn in a Givenchy twopiece.
Words fail me. This is a book you will never forget.
If there was ever a man who rose from the ashes like a phoenix then it was the painter Felix Nussbaum. Mark Schaevers follows Nussbaum on his wanderings through the Nazi years, from Rome to the Italian Riviera, from Paris to Ostend and Brussels.
Verbeken brings back to life the era of the great expectations
Pascal Verbeken registers the small and the large signs of the times. He listens to a multicoloured collection of Belgians and their unique, sometimes tragic stories. ‘Grand Central Belge’ is a requiem for a divided country that does not succeed in chasing its old demons away.
A perfectly accomplished anthology of moving testimonies from literary and other sources.
In deeply personal letters, displaying an impressive knowledge of the subject, Piet Chielens and his brother Wim correspond about the war poems of John McCrae, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and many other soldiers who fought in Flanders Fields and found comfort in writing poetry.
Nobody has taught me as much about the euro crisis as Paul De Grauwe.
Do the financial crisis and the growing inequality create a new balance of power between the free market and the government? Are we witnessing a turnover of capitalism and does the government take over again?
Provocative and elegant, visionary and stylish. This European dares to tell the hard truths.
Chief Geopolitical Analyst for Stratfor
We, as Europeans, feel as if the future passes right by us. The crisis rages over our continent like a storm and dismantles all our certainties. Are the fundaments of Europe crumbling? And do we actually understand what is going on?
The polder village of Doel, situated in the shadow of a nuclear reactor near the port of Antwerp, has been a pawn in the power games of successive politicians since the 1960s. Jeroen Janssen became fascinated by those who stayed behind and by their stories. ‘Doel’ is an impressive account of a personal journey of discovery in a village whose fate has long been uncertain.
Much is currently being written about the Chinese exploitation of Africa, but who is writing about the price China pays? The answer: Lieve Joris, and brilliantly, too.
What happens when people meet who do not share a colonial past? With that question in mind, Lieve Joris leaves Africa for China. In keeping with the modus operandi she has refined over past decades, she immerses herself in the world of Africans and Chinese who venture into each other’s territory in the slipstream of the big trade contracts.
An effervescent portrait of the artistically and politically foaming city Brussels was between 1850 and 1914.
Refugees and adventurers, thinkers and doers, finders and inventors washed ashore in this elegant city where life was good - ask Baudelaire, Marx, Rodin, Ensor, Multatuli and all those others, read it in the writings of Teirlinck or Van de Woestijne.
Decreus’ critical discussion of dominant market thinking in our depoliticized society is clever and provocative.
Politiek en Samenleving
Decreus sets out to subject the current political establishment to fierce criticism. He unmasks representative democracy as in truth an aristocracy and points to the incompatibility of the democratic ideal with the premises of neoliberal policies and market thinking.
Van Reybrouck manages to convince the reader that drawing lots would be an effective way to breathe new life into our enfeebled democracy.
Henriette Roland-Holst Prize jury
Van Reybrouck argues with crystal clarity that drawing lots would be an effective way to revitalize our enfeebled democracy and ensure that citizens participate once more in the social structures that shape them and their lives.
No better soundtrack for a political and cultural history of the twentieth century than jazz. In 'Rebellious Rhythms' Matthijs de Ridder starts on a hazardous search through an age of jazz and jazzy literature.
She succeeds in making the first king of the Belgians a man of flesh and blood.
Based on Leopold’s private letters, Gita Deneckere paints a portrait of a melancholy ruler who managed like no other to weave together the personal and the political. Through his eyes she examines the history of Europe in a period of change.
Fluid and clear, the author’s approach is didactic yet never pedantic.
The author continually speaks to his readers and integrates their responses into his text by concurring with or contradicting them. This rhetorical strategy makes what he writes all the more convincing.
An ambitious and harmonious get together of touristic guide, history lesson and good stories.
Bart Van Loo’s declaration of intent opens a highly original and enjoyable alternative history of France in the light of French chansons. By combining an erudite knowledge of French music and historical facts Bart Van Loo constructs fascinating and unexpected connections.
A book and a study of a kind of which there are all too few
‘Peace Be With You, Sister’ is the story of Muriel Degauque, a Belgian who became the first and only Western woman to carry out a suicide attack. She drove her white Mercedes from Brussels to Baghdad in order to blow herself up in the name of Allah.
Sublime, monumental, virtuoso. This literary non-fiction is more thrilling than a novel.
Like many Belgians of his generation, David Van Reybrouck knew Congo from stories of the old days. The author begins his gripping account in the 1870s and chronicles the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras, right up to 2010, the fiftieth anniversary of Congolese Independence.
Fascinating depiction of the evolution of society through one family [...] a stylistic crown jewel.
JURY REPORT, LIBRIS LITERATURE PRIZE
'Small Days' is a unique poetic diary of daily life, evoking affection and admiration in equal measure. How wonderful it must be for his children to see their childhood recorded so well by a loving author father! But this personal experience is made universally recognisable and Dewulf’s prose is striking for its subdued tone, its beautiful metaphors and its natural lyricism.
Are we experiencing the dying throes of psychotherapy? Is Freud finished for good? Following a line of reasoning as subtle as it is logically necessary, Paul Verhaeghe shows how psychotherapy and the psychiatric profession have lost ground due to the combined effect of pseudo-scientific psychology and the corruptive influence of the pharmaceutical industry.
Russia’s Fortune. A Journey to the Loneliest People on Earth
An impressive collection of travelogues
When Johan De Boose packs his bags, readers know they are in for a treat. Russia’s Fortune takes him to the heart of his first love. Given that De Boose is both a romantic and a sceptic, he manages to find a perfect balance between unconditional enthusiasm and sober observation. De Boose never flinches from asking questions about himself either. Could his passion for Russia have anything to do with a predilection for tragedy and suffering?
A magnificent style – scholarly but vivid and punchy
James Ensor (1860–1949) was everything in one: cocky and solitary, baron and bohemian, a misunderstood bourgeois, a peintre maudit who surveyed the world from his ivory tower in Ostend and sought refuge in the salons of Brussels. Min peels away the mask of the mythmaker to create a wonderful portrait of this enigmatic and multi-faceted painter.
Buelens has written a brilliant and accessible book about the hyperbole of the Great War.
In' Europe, oh Europe!' Buelens describes how Europe was shooting itself to pieces while desperately seeking a new identity. It is a book about the destructive and healing power of the word, a chunk of lively cultural history and a meditation on nationalism and international cooperation.
Journalism, only better than that; the literature of reality
They walk from market to market, sleeping in huts and schools, but gradually the power of the colonel starts to decline and the guide becomes increasingly insecure. The ancient landscape brings back powerful memories of Joris’ childhood village.
A book that seems to have been written with a video camera on the shoulder
Lieve Joris has written a lot about the African Congo. In The Rebels’ Hour, she chose the genre of faction to let the reader experience the complexity of human tragedy in what is called the African First World War.
So evocative that it’s as if you have actually set out in the company of Lieve Joris.
Nieuwsblad van het Noorden
Fascinated since childhood by the stories of her great-uncle, a missionary in the Congo, Lieve Joris travelled to Africa in his footsteps in 1985. Back to the Congo tells of her search for the old Congo of the Catholic fathers, and for the Zaire of the ubiquitous President Mobutu.
On October 1st 1939, the day World War II started, Hitler permitted doctors to kill patients suffering from neurologic and psychiatric disorders. This was the start of Aktion T4, the systematic and industrial killing of handicapped and mentally ill people.
In ‘The Belgian Labyrinth’ Van Istendael guides his readers through the history of Belgium, from the hunting parties of Emperor Charlemagne through Spanish, Austrian, French and Dutch rule to the creation of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830.
16 incisive observations by a stylistically strong writer who holds his readers’ attention with a great sense of timing and narrative skill
A declaration of love to the Belgian in the street, wonder at his pastimes, an ode to his beautiful, but archaic turns of phrase. And also: a deliberately fragmented narrative about a Belgian childhood, a chronicling of the things that pass.All this Verhulst describes, ponders and pokes fun at in his unique and inimitable style: fluent and smooth, incisive and ironic, as well as over-the-top and hilarious, but never without compassion.
A talented writer, original and funny, who is definitely one to watch
While working on his thesis, David Van Reybrouck came across the accusation that the Belgian writer and Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck had plagiarised from the work of the South African author Eugène Marais. ‘The Plague’ sweeps the reader along in a thrilling literary adventure, which leaves its image on the mind’s eye long after the last page has been turned.
All the problems of post-colonial Africa seem to rage there in exaggerated form. Ten years after her highly praised 'Back to the Congo', Lieve Joris was brave enough to return during a particularly precarious moment in Congolese history.
The great charm of this book lies in its explosive mix of opinion and storytelling.
The result is a beautiful balance between intellectual understanding and personal impressions. His great strength is his ability to keep his eyes open in all circumstances and to surprise himself with the realization that ‘travelling often turns out to be a process of finding what you weren’t looking for’.
She has expanded the boundaries of travel writing.
Times Literary Supplement
In Mali Blues Lieve Joris travels from Senegal via Mauretania to Mali. She gives a portrait of the people she encounters. In their will to survive they have learned to adapt to constants such as poverty and rebellion.
She is the only philosopher writing in Dutch who can make philosophy not just nonacademic and understandable but moving.
Herman De Coninck
The great value of Patricia De Martelaere's essays ultimately lies in what makes them rise above philosophical debate. Whereas philosophers like to make readers furrow their brows as deeply as possible, the author excels at laying out a clear line of argument, avoiding jargon and applying convincing logic.