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Paul Hermans appointed new director of Flanders Literature

Paul Hermans is the new director of Flanders Literature. He succeeds Koen Van Bockstal, who took on the role of Director General of UNICEF Belgium in November 2019. Van Bockstal was at the helm of the Flanders Literature team for over eight years.

The lengthy search for a successor was led by an external consultancy firm and conducted by a selection committee made up of members of the board of directors. Following a thorough assessment, Paul Hermans emerged as the most suitable candidate.

Hermans is a familiar face at Flanders Literature, having previously served on some of the organisation’s advisory panels. But before he starts his role as director on 20 January 2020, we would like to get to know him even better, which is why we fired some questions at him.

Photo Paul Hermans
Paul Hermans is the new director of Flanders Literature. Photo © Bob Van Mol

What is your fondest memory of Flanders Literature?

It’s not one single moment. I’m always struck by the way the team effortlessly combines commitment and expertise with enthusiasm and open-mindedness. That’s something you all radiate, which is lovely and refreshing!

What book do you read to your children?

I used to read a lot to my three children, but I haven’t done so for a while now, because they prefer to read for themselves. Not long ago, I took the twins to their first book launch, that of ‘Waagstukken’ (Bold Ventures) by Charlotte Van den Broeck in deSingel. ‘Congratulations, you survived your first book launch', the author wrote in their book afterwards. The theme – suicide among architects – isn’t necessarily something that speaks to eleven-year-olds. But they were really impressed with the launch itself, the theatrical setting, the film clips, etc. The fact that it featured a lot of accidents and death wasn’t an issue. I thought to myself, ‘they’re showing enthusiasm to please me’, but my daughter has nearly finished the book, and my son is waiting for her to finish so he can start reading.

What was your thesis about?

The catalytic epoxidation of propene to propylene oxide using silver as an oxidant. That’s right, something totally different – let’s leave it at that. (laughs)

What kind of team leader are you?

People talk of directive, transactional, empowering leadership and so on, but I think the reality is far more ambiguous. I’m not a particular kind of leader. Depending on the situation, I’ll opt for either this or that approach. It’s all about wanting to work with my team on creating a certain narrative. And during that process I’m not standing on the sidelines, but I’m one of the links in the chain.

Are you a coffee aficionado or a tea junkie?

I’m essentially a coffee person. But I drink tea as well.

Are you a morning or an evening person?

If you were to ask people who know me well, 99 per cent will probably say ‘an evening person’. But that’s not entirely true. It’s rather more nuanced than that. I would put it like this: my head opts for the morning, my heart and gut for the evening.

What do you feel comfortable wearing in the workplace?

Anything goes. I like to wear T-shirts, but I’m fond of a formal shirt and suit as well. And when it’s really cold I’ll bring out my woolly jumper.

Dec 19th, 2019