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More Details Original Title. Reetveerdegem Belgium Belgium. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about De helaasheid der dingen , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about De helaasheid der dingen. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. If you ever find yourself in a small village in Flanders, don't despair.

Take a deep breath of wet grey air and go for a little walk. The centre marked by the closed-off church will have one light to offer: that of one of the local bars. The cold neon lights shine on the stained wooden furniture and faces puffed up by alcohol. The fat laughter that rises from behind the door is difficult to distinguish from the profanities that precede and follow it. You ignore the bar, you will encounter many m If you ever find yourself in a small village in Flanders, don't despair.

You ignore the bar, you will encounter many more during your short walk. You will take one of the many small roads leading up to the fields and enjoy the silence there for a moment. Maybe you start wondering what the point of this walk is. It is the following: you climb over one of the fences, get down on your knees and plunge your hand in the earth.

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You grab a fistful of this dark earth and green wet grass and you hold on to it, you squeeze it as you feel the raw essence get under your fingernails. You open your hand and rub the stuff all over your face. You let the smell of earthen freshness overpower you. You'll try standing up but instead you will lay down on your back, look at the ghostly rainclouds and smile, until you smell the tinge of shit emanating from the sticky stuff on your face. You look in your hand and see that it bleeds as it pulsates under the black goo. You get up to wash your hands and quickly find the watering trough but it's as dry as your throat.

I think that fistful of Flemish earth is an apt metaphor for the reading of this book. It's fresh and it's dirty. The book is often bleak and miserable but there's a spark of wit and some unexpected flashes of wisdom and tenderness. And most of all: it's REAL. It's as real and true as the wet, fertile earth that life is made of. It's a book that's unapologetic about its baseness and confident in its ultimate eminence.

I tend to avoid Flemish literature.

De helaasheid der dingen by Dimitri Verhulst

All my experiences with it were the same: depressing. All the Flemish books I've read have one thing in common: they managed to make me a little more unhappy. They all have this chilling breeze of muted despair blowing through them.

Even though " De Helaasheid der Dingen " has this same tone of hopelesness, I feel pride for this book, precisely because of its flashes and sparks. It makes me want to push this book into a stranger's hands and say: "Here. Read this. This is of our people.

A Family Lives to Drink, and, Yes, Drinks to Live

I have to admit I myself felt like a stranger in this book. If I would have entered one of the bars at any given point in the story, I'd be greeted as an outsider and tested for drinking skills or folcloric wisecracks.


I'd be asked for subtle testaments of my despair. I'd fail miserably and be violently thrown out of the bar. I'd readjust my glasses, go back to my happy home and would feel a strange longing to be part of this band of hard-to-like drunks. Flanders has many faces. The one the author shows in this book has got an abundance of scars and rotten teeth, but it's the prettiest face I've seen.

View all 5 comments. We do not forget that literature has another face, that of responsibility, awareness, commitment. It is the last that attracts me. The Misfortunates is brutal and never flinching, never allowing any moralizing in its episodic survey. This was likelier far more hilarious than it should have been for me.

My r We do not forget that literature has another face, that of responsibility, awareness, commitment. My reaction likely represents me as a darkish coot. I am pretty cool with that. The novel makes no effort to glorify the unfortunate nature of addiction and depravity.