Unfortunately we won't be seeing each other this autumn. But luckily this wretched virus has not stopped Flemish authors, illustrators and graphic novelists from making wonderful books! We are proud to present this year's literary highlights below, from children's and youth literature, to fiction and nonfiction and graphic novels.
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Incredibly carefully thought-out, refined, perfectionistic and subtle, but also unbearable and heart-breaking
In contrast to his comic book heroes, Aaron lacks a talent for witty one-liners, breath-taking courage and a woman in need of rescue. As the summer slowly passes, he is forced to confront something he would rather not face. Ben Gijsemans’ drawings are meticulously detailed, and in their sometimes slow-motion narrative rhythm they perfectly portray Aaron’s struggle with his feelings. A beautiful but painful and subtle portrait.
A beautifully written debut about loss and (step) motherhood. With immense compassion, Van Offel draws psychological portraits that cannot be viewed independently from identity politics and the wider political situation in Israel.
Shameless locker-room banter, portrayed with impressive visual style
Simon Kennedy and Chuck Atkins are well-known TV presenters. In the course of an 18-hole round of golf, we get to know them as sexist, racist jocks who are utterly repellent in every way. Bram Algoed’s minimalist illustrations pare this portrait of toxic masculinity down to the essence. ‘Assholes’ is outrageous, repulsive, disturbing and downright hilarious.
Leroy has had the time of his life, and thus so do we.
De Morgen on ‘Suzy Doozy’
Tomorrow morning Bluebeard and his brave knights will make mincemeat of Redfang and his men. Redfang is hatching the same plan. But as the two warring bands advance towards each other, they discover that bloodshed can wait. Game on! Restricting himself to using only a four-colour ballpoint pen, Benjamin Leroy has created a high-spirited adventure in four colours.
Ramos’s playful, lovely art stands strongly on its own
The New York Times on ‘Sonia Delaunay: A Life of Color’
A beautiful princess called Tourmaline is imprisoned in a tall tower. Only the bravest knight of all can free her. Knight after knight is sure that he’s the bravest, but they all fail in their quest. Luckily there’s one fearless knight who doesn’t let anything daunt him. Or should that be: daunt her? A gentle, funny and atmospheric plea for more openness and less prejudice.
Charming and written with great passion. The love of language is palpable throughout.
In ‘The Bike Book’ duo Paul de Moor and Wendy Panders invite you to take a seat on their tandem for a wild ride, showing you everything that’s beautiful about bikes along the way. With his confident language, De Moor effortlessly sweeps you up in his enthusiasm. He leaves nothing out, so you can’t help but agree with the book’s subtitle: everything about the best invention ever.
A book you can’t put down and that sends shivers down your spine.
Found among the rubble of a burnt-down old farm is the lifeless body of its owner, 84-year-old farmer Daniel. Farmer Daniel is the uncle of writer and journalist Chris De Stoop. In his familiar sober style, Chris De Stoop registers all the different aspect of this case and ends up creating a devastating literary drama.
A tender novel capturing the soberness of rural life, the daily routine and the things that are unspoken. About a subtly developing love triangle, with eye for nuance and the complexity of the multifaceted love between the characters.
This book is far from a dry account of the facts. This historical work is accessible to a general readership.
Nadia Nsayi, born in Kinshasa, but raised by adoptive parents in a provincial town in Flanders after the death of her birth father, starts doing genealogical research into her roots while at university. She discovers that her family history is closely entwined with the history of Belgium and the Congo. Apart from looking at her own development and growing awareness, Nsayi calls for decolonisation via an official apology for the colonial injustices and for decolonisation as restoration.
Elephant is shipwrecked, right in the middle of the ocean. Luckily he finds an island that’s just big enough to stand on. Several rescue attempts go awry, but the island becomes a wonderful place in the process. In this jolly book, Leo Timmers swaps his beloved wheeled vehicles for boats. ‘Elephant’s Island’ is captivating proof of Timmers’ skill as an illustrator and storyteller.
Modest and endearing yet grandiose and awe-inspiring
Pluizuit on ‘Pigeon’
Henry has a beautiful view of nature from his window, but his room is bleak and bare. Luckily he knows how to fix this: he’ll bring some of that beauty inside. In ‘Henry’, the acclaimed illustrator duo Jacques & Lise play with concepts like ‘empty’ and ‘full’, and the pages feature real peepholes. A beautifully designed book.
The ancient Greeks didn’t have it easy. Their country seemed to be awash with magical creatures, usually with malign intentions. And they also had to fear the wrath of the gods. This book recounts all the well-known Greek myths and legends in a modern and humorous way.
The problems caused by the corona and climate crises are forcing us all to adapt to a society which has changed beyond all recognition. But they can also be used as an opportunity to make different choices. Where would we like to take our economy? How should we relate to one another and to the environment? And what is the effect of this ‘new normal’ on our sense of wellbeing?
Cast-iron dialogues. Charlie’s anger is authentic and breath-taking
Charlies father has left, without any explanation or goodbyes. She is furious. Not so much with her father as with her mother, who must surely have driven him away. When she discovers her father’s real situation, Charlie turns her anger on him. Everyone’s lying, Charlie thinks, and she decides to do the same. Charlie is a keen observer with a black sense of humour, and ‘Liar Liar’ is a razor-sharp portrait of a girl who knows she is being overlooked.
In ‘Lightning Stone’ Johan de Boose takes the reader on a journey across the US. With his warm, affectionate pen de Boose evokes a vivid world, cleverly alternating between contemplative-philosophical and familiar, as well as striking the occasional humorous note.
After her house in Paris has burned down, killing her lover, Madame Catherine moves to her country home, where she begins to be consumed by nightmares. A presence watches her, follows her, and touches her in the night. Catherine gradually loses her mind. In this idiosyncratic version of ‘The Horla’ by Guy de Maupassant, Maarten Vande Wiele ably allows suggestion to do its work.
This collection of four short stories for children by renowned Brazilian author Clarice Lispector is bursting with quirkiness and amusing ideas. And who better to illustrate these remarkable tales than Gerda Dendooven? In Dendooven’s work it’s not just the people whose faces are full of personality – she can seemingly effortlessly imbue a chicken or a rabbit with an inner world. Her utterly unique style complements Lispector’s like no other.
Right from the very first anecdote Janssen wins you over, lock, stock and barrel.
‘Posthumous’ is an imaginative ode to the life and music of Franz Schubert. We encounter the young composer on his deathbed, where colourful, feverish dreams take over. We dive into some of Schubert’s most famous songs, in which he himself plays the leading part. Every song has its own background colour and is based on both facts and fantasy. A magisterial collaboration.
A dangling rope takes us on a chase through a city in this scintillating picture book without words. It is grabbed in turn by a water ballerina, a super hero, a window cleaner, a monkey in the zoo and a bandit on the run. Where does that rope come from? In this cheerful story, Mattias De Leeuw exploits the innate flamboyance of his drawing style.
Four books for the price of one: an adventurous travelogue, a suspenseful whodunit, a biography and a history book
Gazet van Antwerpen
Hilde Baele met Mzee Jerôme Sebasoni, a gardener, in Kigali, Rwanda. He told her his incredible life story. He claimed to have fought against the Belgians and to have been a close comrade of Che Guevara’s in the struggle to oust the Congolese dictator Mobutu. Baele roped in her illustrator friend Jeroen Janssen to help her get to the bottom of Che's guide's claims. All the powerful graphic material in this impressive book was sketched and painted on the spot by Janssen. This is a remarkable testament to an extraordinary life story.
Each of the observations in this book reflects Brijs’ passion for flora and fauna, his curiosity about the unknown and his hunger for knowledge. Despite the sense of decline, Brijs also makes room for observations that demonstrate that with minimal effort, judicious use of knowledge and lots of good will conservation is certainly possible.
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.
A wonderful book, in my opinion. All real people, larger than life.
‘The Aunts’ is a classic novel about the tragedy of a petit-bourgeois family in the early 20th century. This literary tale is, above all, an indictment against the oppressive class-ridden society of the time, but the melodramatic highpoints and the cynical tone will effortlessly fascinate today’s reader.