One can speak of Elsschot’s oeuvre as great European literature
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Since its publication in English, ‘Cheese’ has conquered the world with translations in more than 30 languages. The novella deals with an episode in the life of Frans Laarmans, a clerk who is suddenly made chief representative of a Dutch cheese company. ‘Cheese’ is a satire of the business world and the perfect vehicle for Elsschot’s dry humorous style. In a brilliant evocation of the thirties, it depicts a world full of smart operators and failed businessmen.
One of the landmark European novels of the post-war era
This Bildungsroman is also a social document about political and social misfortune in Flanders before, during, and after World War II. The novel has continued to be a bestseller for many years and has been translated into numerous languages.
Right before his death in the 1980s, Stefan Hertmans’ grandfather gave his grandson a few notebooks. For years, Hertmans was too afraid to open them – until he finally did and laid bare some unexpected secrets.
‘Sleep!’ is a convincing novel about two insomniacs, in which the author uses the complex personalities of her characters to pen a strikingly insightful vision of life and its experiences. Verbeke writes about the underdog, about people whose poignant yearning for a normal life arouses our compassion.
In a forgotten village somewhere in Flanders, a boy lives with his father and three uncles in his grandmother’s house. They’re an ill-mannered and coarse bunch, unpredictable heavy drinkers. Wallowing at the bottom of the social ladder, their lives are a total mess.
Geneticist Victor Hoppe returns after an absence of nearly twenty years to the village of Wolfheim. The doctor brings with him his infant children – three identical boys all sharing the same disfigurement. ‘The Angel Maker’ is a chilling story that explores the ethical limits of science and religion.
An extremely fascinating book in which the everyday lives of asylum seekers is told in an unparalleled fashion
The narrator, Bipul Masli, sketches an intriguing picture of life in an asylum centre. He describes the daily routine with detached irony. His tireless attempts to gain recognition as a refugee are both comic and touching.
Journalist Freek Groenevelt’s life is thoroughly shaken up by a series of surprising events that seem to all revolve around an individual called Joachim Stiller. The novel is a textbook example of the magic realist style in which reality is interwoven with surreal elements: nothing is exactly as it seems.
A tremendous novel, often horrifically funny and always unsettling
‘The Guard’ is set largely in the underground car park of a luxurious block of flats. Two guards, are never relieved. Terrin tells a strongly allegorical story of 21st century society. ‘The Guard’ is not only an enthralling psychological novel, but also encompasses oppressiveness, emotion and sensuality.
When she finds her husband dead, Alice does not rush to the phone to call the doctor or her son. She wraps Jules in a plaid, and makes plans for lunch. She is willing to relinquish her husband to death if need be, but not to the outside world. ‘A Day with Mr. Jules’ is a touching, convincing novel about the end of a man’s life: a worthy “sputtering finale of belching steam”.
An ‘ode to life’ written after a moral and physical crisis, ‘Pallieter’ was warmly received as an antidote to the misery of World War I in occupied Belgium. ‘Pallieter’ is a portrait of Flemish rural life in which there is never a cheerless moment.
A debut that you wish every writer would write: surprising, imaginative and merciless *****
Eva, in her late twenties, travels back to her native village with a big block of ice in her car. She has been invited to a viewing of a new milking parlour at a dairy farm where her childhood friend Pim still lives, an occasion that will also serve to commemorate the death of his older brother, who drowned as a young man. Slowly it becomes clear she returned to her village to take revenge for what happened to her as a child...