10 Must-Read Novels By Contemporary Belgian Authors

Library
Library | © Patrik Göthe/Unsplash
Nana Van De Poel

For a small country, Belgium has been an absolute hotbed of literary talent writing in both Dutch and French. It wasn’t just a lucky streak in the middle of the last century either, as the household names of today show no signs of backing down to their precursors. Here is an overview of the best contemporary fiction to come out of Belgium in the last decade.

2016: Het Smelt/It Melts – Lize Spit

Belgium’s newest literary darling has set foot onto the scene in spectacular fashion this year. It Melts, by 27-year-old Lize Spit, is the gripping tale of a messed-up childhood in the smallest of villages – one that has led to a lonely life and a craving to settle the score for protagonist Eva. With an enormous block of ice in the trunk of her car, she heads back to her hometown. Numbers speak for themselves when your debut novel gets offers from six publishing houses and is currently being translated into eight different languages (including English).
https://instagram.com/p/BEGa60Lg55J/?tagged=hetsmelt

2015: Dertig Dagen/Thirty Days – Annelies Verbeke

The sad stories and weird troubles of a West-Flemish town as told through the eyes of newcomer Nicholas. Thirty Days is one of those novels that isn’t driven by a riveting premise – its easiest summary would be a bunch of neighbors complaining to their handyman – but entirely depends on the stylistic graces of their author. With smirk-inducing wit and a characteristic strong love for society’s black sheep, Annelies Verbeke uses Nicholas as a blank slate willing to listen to every oddball in need of a shoulder to lean on.
http://instagram.com/p/BCiX_OttGaX/?tagged=dertigdagen

1968: the year of Sartre, of student protests and the first man on the moon. It’s also the birth year of Peter Terrin, established champion of Dutch-language literature, and the period in which he decided to set his latest novel. The fast-paced, high-society environment of Formula 1 racing proves the perfect setting for Terrin’s tight prose. When Team Lotus mechanic Jack Preston saves movie star Deedee from a terrible crash, he finds out that selfless acts don’t always come with rewards.
http://instagram.com/p/BCIDn7_mgu_/?tagged=peterterrin

2013: Oorlog en Terpentijn/War and Turpentine – Stefan Hertmans

Sometimes called the best Belgian book of the last quarter century, War and Turpentine has all the ingredients a contemporary epic one could ever ask for. A courageous soldier, a gruesome war, a love long lost. Based on his grandfather’s actual memories, veteran author Stefan Hertmans – always considered somewhat of an intellectual – has tapped into his family’s past to create a story that finally resonates with a wider audience. The prestigious ECI Literary Prize – the grand reward for writing the year’s best Dutch-language novel – was his for the taking.
https://instagram.com/p/yP49FUMPgv/?tagged=oorlogenterpentijn

2012: Gelukkig Zijn We Machteloos/Thankfully We’re Helpless – Ivo Victoria

Few occasions are as ripe for high tensions and escalating resentment than a family party, Ivo Victoria (real name Hans Van Rompaey) must have thought. His second novel plays increasingly like a dream as a surrealistic film gently covers the story about a lawn celebration caught up in collective paranoia. After the disappearance of estranged Uncle Lex and pubescent daughter Billie, characters and readers lose sense of what’s real in a bizarre puzzle of fear and prejudice.

http://instagram.com/p/zKx4yTD_7m/?tagged=gelukkigzijnwemachteloos

2011: Ik, Hollywood/I, Hollywood – Jan Van Loy

The washed-up Hollywood tycoon Louie Peters has somehow ended up in Brussels and called upon a biographer to immortalize his former life across the ocean. Over a hundred years old and with glamorous stories up the wazoo, the living embodiment of the American Dream is author Jan Van Loy’s way into an expansive epic of the early movie industry. Superficial yet likable, Louie guides us through Hollywood’s many different periods, with a prose style and ambiance to match. Who would have thought a Vlaming like Van Loy would have the charm of old Tinseltown down to a tee?

2010: Une Très Petite Surface – Nicolas Ancion

The result of a 24-hour experiment, Une Très Petite Surface is an especially intriguing read knowing that the author wrote it in the span of just one day. Inspired by the American television series 24, Nicolas Ancion had himself locked up at the 2010 Brussels Book Fair to meet the challenge of creating a crime novel out of thin air right then and there. While not exactly being Ancion’s best book, the 85-page manuscript reveals the temperament and vision of a gifted crime writer.

2009: Sprakeloos/Speechless – Tom Lanoye

A novel, yet not quite. Speechless is the reflection of one of the most celebrated contemporary novelists of the Low Countries on the death of his mother. Intensely autobiographical yet dubbed ‘a novel’ all the same, speechless is what Lanoye’s mother becomes after a stroke renders her words incomprehensible. In a book bursting at the seams with anecdotes, the author gives language back to the exuberant lady who raised him. Whether at her most obnoxious, hilarious or tender, the authenticity of these word pictures is what sticks to the reader like glue.
https://instagram.com/p/BFyRBmdOtbD/?tagged=tomlanoye

2008: Maalstroom/Le Boulevard Périphérique – Henry Bauchau

The second to last work by intellectual Henry Bauchau is a reflection on death, though it never becomes depressing. On the contrary, Le Boulevard Périphérique is Bauchau at his most personal and most moving. In it, the 96-year-old author – who moved in the circles of legendary thinkers such as Albert Camus and Jacques Derrida – sketches the thought process of a man who comes to see the value of empathy in his old age. The title is a reference to Bauchau’s beloved Paris, the place the Belgian had lost his heart to decades ago.
https://instagram.com/p/BBt_edSoY0U/?tagged=leboulevardperipherique

2007: Ni d’Ève, Ni d’Adam/Tokyo Fiancée – Amélie Nothomb

The years that best-selling powerhouse Amélie Nothomb spent in Tokyo during her childhood and her early twenties have left a mark her faithful readers are well aware of. Considered a follow-up to the popular Fear and Trembling, the semi-autobiographical Tokyo Fiancée again details the prolific author’s fascination with oriental culture. This time, an affair with a Japanese suitor serves as the impetus for fun, revelatory discoveries about the way of life, each more exciting than the next to young Amélie.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article