March 8 is International Women's Day. For this occasion, we have collected books from Flanders with strong female characters. The collection contains stories in every genre and is probably not exhaustive, but is a good starting point when it comes to female characters in Flanders' literature. Feel free to contact us if you would like to receive more information about one of these titles.
A blend of incisive, sensory perception and condensed poetic speech’
With ‘Antigone in Molenbeek’ Stefan Hertmans has adapted Sophocles’ tragedy to our contemporary, multicultural society. Antigone is now known as Nouria, a brave young law student from the Brussels district of Molenbeek. Just as in the classic, she wants to pay her last respects to her deceased brother – in Hertmans’ version a suicide bomber – and bury his remains. But the authorities decide otherwise.
Penelope is a surgeon on the Syrian front. Returning home is becoming increasingly difficult. While her daughter is growing up and worries about the size of her nose, Penelope tries to save human lives. In dynamic watercolour compositions with dialogues that reveal razor-sharp observation, Vanistendael wonders how to deal with a choice that is not a real choice at all.
The king has twelve daughters, whom he keeps close to him. The girls feel trapped in a golden cage. Until one day they discover a secret staircase that takes them to a magic garden. In ‘The Magic Garden’ Dendooven blows a breath of fresh air through ‘The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes’ by the Brothers Grimm, and adds a feminist-tinted ending.
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.
A view of the world that is as warm-hearted as it is horrifying
A pregnant woman fantasizes about the future life of her unborn daughter. One thing is certain: that future will be far from unproblematic. The abstract and poetic ‘Deerskin’ invites us to think about a future in which humans are no longer at the controls.
A feast for the eyes. Mannaert is one of the stars of the contemporary graphic novel
Yasmina's father is struggling to make ends meet, but luckily Yasmina knows the right people and places so she can serve him a delicious meal every day. But one day an addictive type of potato appears on the market with rather strange consequences for those who eat them. When her father falls victim to this mystery as well Yasmina decides that enough is enough.
Central to ‘The Accursed Fathers’ is the life story of Pamela. Rejected by her mother who had been hoping for a boy, browbeaten by her father whom she refuses to hate, the heroine of the story is the eternal victim of a hereditary curse. Through her central character, Monika van Paemel exposes the subjugation of women
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 adaptation of the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ classic is one to remember. Little Red Riding Hood remains the familiar protagonist, but this time is a self-aware and determined girl who knows what she wants. And what she wants is red.
This is an unassuming and tender tale that gives a voice to birth mothers, who are rarely heard. The book is strikingly minimalist, with just a little text and a small illustration on each page. A book about the powerful bond between parent and child, about taking your distance, and about unconditional love.
A crucial book that will stir hearts and minds ****
Stefan Hertmans based the story of ‘The Convert’ on historical facts, and he brings the Middle Ages to life with immense imagination and stylistic ingenuity. This is the story of three religions and a world going through massive change, a story of hope, love and hatred, a novel about a woman who can be certain of one thing: at home the death penalty awaits.
In her historical novel, which is based on actual events, Janzing shines the spotlight on the childhoods of two of the greatest icons of the 20th century: Audrey Hepburn and Anne Frank. Two world-famous girls born in the same year, connected by one devastating war.
A master of suspense and of the subtle untangling of painful situations *****
Her mother thinks Bianca is a girl that requires special treatment. Her father thinks she is unmanageable. And Bianca herself? She doesn’t say a word. Until one hot afternoon in August, Billie King, her favourite actress, is sitting in the living room, sipping a cup of tea. With Billie King around, Bianca is brave enough to take a decision. Moeyaert creates an oppressive atmosphere, in which smouldering tensions can erupt any moment.
His language roars, rumbles and crackles. Only a born storyteller can write like this.
In the figure of the wonderfully defiant Stans, Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem creates an unforgettable character, and subtly brings topical issues such as gender and identity into an extremely convincing historical setting. Ghent, Paris, Vienna and the battlefields near the Danube come to life in his sensuous language, so much so that the reader can smell the blood, taste the beer and feel the cannons in his belly.
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.
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.
Full of colour, sounds, clear water, and pure poison
‘The Unexpected Answer’ is a sultry book, full of insatiable passion that explodes in the penultimate chapter ‘The Love Letter’, an amalgam of letter fragments written by the collective of women circling Godfried H., and ultimately a single woman who appears in different guises.
The warm, colourful illustrations give the book great added value. Emotions are captured vividly, in both colour and composition.
Noen comes home from school angry, sad and confused.She’s being bullied because of her dark skin and curly hair. Her sister Maan tries to comfort her by pointing out what’s special about Noen’s skin and hair. She turns it into an ode to all brown girls, putting into words what brown girl magic means to her. This book offers girls of colour not just a window on the world but a mirror in which to see themselves.
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.
The novel presents a Moroccan outlook on the differences between Moroccans in Morocco and those who have emigrated; between their own values and Western values; between tradition and the modern ways of thinking that men find so hard to deal with.
Lamrabet creates above all a subtle and convincing portrait of a fascinating woman, who, standing firmly by her decisions, must pay the social and intellectual price.
Her universe is peopled by characters and situations which brutally burst into your imagination and remain there to haunt your dreams when you are wide awake.
Jury Report VSB Poetry Prize
Delphine Lecompte’s poetry creates an extraordinary universe, peopled with characters of highly diverse plumage. The poems are self and family portraits, which, like mirrors at a funfair, magnify the poet’s world into mythological dimensions and associations and reduce it to personal dramas. Full of unusual trains of thought, they seem most like lucid ravings.