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© Manteau / © De Geus / © Horizon
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What They're Reading In Belgium This Fall

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 3 October 2016
Mysterious murder cases, a parody of a biography, and research into the women that stirred Napoleon’s heart and loins – the Belgian fall literary season has it all. Top that off with a new batch of works by contemporary greats such as Dimitri Verhulst and Katrien Hemmerechts and you know you better carve out some reading time this autumn.

Fiction

Het leven gezien van beneden – Dimitri Verhulst

With its 160 pages, Dimitri Verhulst’s new novel is slim in physical size yet heavy in subject matter. The poetic writer has always had a knack for inserting a political edge into his fiction, and has taken aim this time at the censorship practices of the communist Soviet Union, where honest writers were deported to concentration camps. Verhulst’s outrage comes to life in Het leven gezien van beneden in the form of Liliya, the 71-year old combative widow of a Bulgarian artist who sets about rewriting the SU’s literary legacy in original and hilarious ways.

© Atlas Contact

Het Smelt – Lize Spit

Lize Spit’s whirlwind debut has found a cozy home atop the Belgian fiction list since the previous winter and isn’t planning on moving any time soon. Het Smelt tells the story of adolescent Eva and her two friends Laurens and Pim, whose 2002 summer slowly degenerates through a wicked game that leaves Eva self-loathing and fleeing for Brussels as soon as she’s old enough. More than a decade later, a grown-up Eva returns to her sleepy Flemish town with a melting block of ice in her trunk. The suspenseful coming-of-age-tale – a hefty 480-page tome – introduces Lize Spit as a literary force to be reckoned with.

© Das Mag

WIL – Jeroen Olyslaegers

The latest from Antwerp novelist Jeroen Olyslaegers is the closing piece in a trilogy that slaps Belgians in the face. Olyslaegers is almost as much activist as he is writer, known for his engaged Facebook rants almost as much as for his meandering, Louis Paul Boon-like prose. With the epic yet personal WIL, about the cowardice that seeped through Antwerp during the German occupation of World War II, the writer joins the pantheon of Flemish greats to cover the German occupations.

© De Bezige Bij

In naam van de Vader – Toni Coppers

Winner of the 2014 Hercule Poirot Prize, Toni Coppers is steadily claiming the title of Belgium’s resident Agatha Christie. In naam van de Vader is the eleventh thriller with commissioner Liese Meerhout at the helm of a murder investigation. Fun fact: Coppers revealed at the star-studded press conference that the mafia-style assassination at the beginning of this installment was actually thought up by his son at the kitchen table.

© Manteau

De Fouten – Herman Brusselmans

In what feels like his umpteenth book, prolific writer Herman Brusselmans is his vintage, parody-seeking self with an especially intriguing premise added to the mix. The novel is basically a copy-edited version of fictional biographer Johannes Huyghe disastrous attempt to sketch HB’s (Brusselmans’ initials) younger years. Going through it, Brusselmans corrects the many mistakes – hence the title De Fouten (‘The Mistakes), which, of course, is misspelled on the dust jacket. Brusselmans is careful to let his reader know that he didn’t lose his virginity to Cindy from the cookie factory as Huyghe states, nor to Nancy from the tyre factory for that matter, although he did have a crush on the latter and the former had a crush on him. Again a delightful blend of fiction, half truths and dark humor.

© Prometheus

Non-fiction

Het hart van Napoleon, De keizer en de vrouwen – Johan Op de Beeck

Millions of pages have been written on Napoleon Bonaparte’s vast military empire, far fewer have detailed the emperor’s romantic exploits. For his fifth book on Son Altesse Imperial, Johan Op de Beeck decided it was time to explore the women that held a place in the commander’s heart – and in his loins. Turns out that, due to Napoleon’s great sense of smell, mistresses wearing too much perfume were out, while his letters to Joséphine de Beauharnais fit well amongst the most erotic and loving pieces of 18th-century writing.

© Horizon

Waarom mannen geen seksboeken kopen – Wim Slabbinck

Does size really matter? Are men really carrying around so much testosterone that they think about sex every seven seconds? Do they never fake it? And why is it that they don’t buy sex books? Answers to all of these questions are provided by Wim Slabbinck. This fall the media’s foremost sexologist is intent on dispelling eleven persistent myths about the curious world of male sexuality, backing everything up with fact and figures along the way.

© Manteau

Er gebeurde dit, er gebeurde dat – Kristien Hemmerechts

A lot has happened in the life of Kristien Hemmerechts, the female voice in the trio of ‘Angry Young Belgians’ that crushed taboos for a living during the eighties. In the recently published bundle of autobiographical short stories Er gebeurde dit, er gebeurde dat she talks openly and honestly about hardships such as the loss of her two baby boys, the death of her husband, poet Herman de Coninck and her diagnosis with breast cancer almost a year ago.

© De Geus