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Stijn Streuvels

stijn_streuvelsHet was een koude tocht, en de slechtste tijd van het jaar voor een reis, voor zulk een verre reis.”

De trip doorheen Zuid-Amerika waaraan ik een maand en een half geleden begon is allesbehalve een koude tocht. Terwijl het weer in België alle kanten uit pingpongt kneep uw dienaar er even van tussen. Maar aan alle mooie liedjes komt een eind.

LijsternestSoms, heel soms, om gewoon een nieuwe riedel aan te vangen. In die zin gaat het op maandag 15 februari rechtstreeks van Zaventem naar Ingooigem. Dankzij Passaporta verblijf ik twee weken lang in het Lijsternest, het voormalige woonhuis van Stijn Streuvels. In één zucht van de pampa’s van Patagonië naar de kleitkoppen van West-Vlaanderen. Het programma bestaat erin me te verdiepen in het werk van de Vlaamse schrijver, maar ook om zelf aan de weg te timmeren. Project X, zeg maar. Watch this space…


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Fijne recensie.

Via deze drie personages verwijst De kansmachine naar het verlangen van iedere mens naar een betere wereld. Hun persoonlijke verhaal en hun onderlinge interacties staan borg voor een boeiende en spannende roman met een verrassend einde.”
Karlo Keersmaekers via De Leeswolf.


141126_De Leeswolf_Karlo Keersmaekers

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Def Leppard.

In all your travels, have you ever encountered the good lord Jesus Christ?”

One stammers. Different ways to find goodness. Different names for it too. God. Allah. Jehovah.

That’s not… I won’t even pronounce the name. That pagan idol. False idol. Devil worshippers. Muslims.”

I thought he was quoting a line from my next book about a Dutch rabble-rouser’s descent into lunacy.

Equating that with the good lord Jesus Christ is like calling an arm a leg.”

The hitchhiker puts him or herself at the mercy of whatever comes out of mouths of hands holding the wheel. Other body parts analogies may apply.

See, there are eleven commandments.”

One forgets what was said next. Bits and pieces and: “I wouldn’t have picked you up. That’s the goodness of the lord working in me. My son here, can attest to that. Ain’t that right?”

The teen in the back of the double-cab pick up has fallen asleep after handing me a can of 7-up. I hate that shit but needed some sugar after a day on the road. My feet were busted, so listen to John the Baptist here a little more.

I love my children. All eleven of’em. And I want them to love me back, and respect me.”

How old are you, if I may ask?”

Fourty-three. Been married twenty-two years now. My parents have been married fifty-four years. I’m not a quitter. My wife’s broken my heart a few times and I hers, but I promised her I’d stay with her and never leave her, and I’ve stayed with her and never left her.”

Good, good.

This here’s Wolf Creek Pass,” he says. “Brings you right over the top.”

Thank you.

CD’s scattered over the dash. Best of Def Leppard. Some Neil Diamond.

Israel’s never been defeated. From the Babylonians to… you know. Everyone’s tried to kill them. Chosen by God. No one could. That’s gotta tell you something. Right? A couple of years back. 2012. Everyone’s talking about the Mayan calendar. They’re gone. Disappeared. Who cares about a calendar? Decadent, devil worshipping. Sacrificing their kids. Israel’s still around.”

Almost in Durango now. I hear there’s a great train ride up the mountain. Let’s see.

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De Kansmachine

De Kansmachine – in de boekhandel vanaf 27 mei.

A Billion Worlds – in English later this year… stay tuned.


312 pagina’s
Eerste druk: Manteau, Antwerpen (België)

De Kansmachine

De Kansmachine

Martine Brumagne gaat aan de slag als secretaresse bij een Brussels bedrijf. Ze moet wel. De boerderij van haar echtgenoot staat op de rand van het bankroet. Terwijl ze terugblikt op een leven van verkeerde keuzes, maakt Brussel iets in haar wakker. Plots zijn er weer mogelijkheden. Zoveel dat het haar duizelt. Haar collega Jennifer zwalpt intussen van de ene onenightstand naar de andere. Haar ouders wachten op kleinkinderen. Zij wacht op… ja, waarop eigenlijk? Of op wie? Alvast niet op de ver van pientere Miko, die haar bespioneert in opdracht van de Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst – althans, zo denkt hij. Of grote baas Serge Huissier, oudgediende van het vreemdelingenlegioen, versierder en beste maatjes met meer dan één corrupte Afrikaanse kolonel, generaal, rebellenleider, noem maar op. Een man met meer dan één geheim ook. Een e-mailtje van Miko dreigt er daar eentje van te onthullen: in het Brusselse misdaadmilieu werkt Huissier aan een betere wereld. Niet zomaar een betere wereld – de beste van alle mogelijke werelden. En daarvoor is hij bereid over lijken te gaan.

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Shelf life

Shelf life. (precursor to A Billion Worlds)

I remember the last time I saw the sun. Or rather, I remember how it was. Before all this. My face tinged a slight crimson of indulgence. An afternoon’s sandpapered skin, and sand in pants and nooks and hiding among toes, incredulous to the rumored shower. A smell of crusted seawater like the best of days. Sun cream thick and wasted, and my muscles all over aching like it had been too long since I last cavorted, tumbling in the surf’s playful reprimand. Chasing a beach ball to the plastic brink of extinction. What a day. The memory’s condensed now to a hard gel of happiness you wouldn’t believe if it zapped you with daytime TV overkill.

So warm. And overwhelmingly funny. Like-.

Like a man slipping on a banana peel? Something like that. Try picturing an infinity of people slipping on an infinity of banana peels, or any fruited infinite surface. A Charlie Chaplin gene pool. Tilting the Earth right out of its axis. Right. Not funny at all. I don’t understand funny. Nobody expects you to. Perhaps you’ll learn it one day. Shall I continue? Yes. All of it’s gone, and I cannot shake the life, like it’s somehow still there. Like I’m living then, and not now. You know what I mean? Yes. I wake up. Brain roused like a herd of buffalo on crack-cocaine. I’m sober, but nothing’s normal now, including each and every atom break-dancing wall to wall in my cranium. The rides begin their whir and throttle early today. Shrieks are still shrieks, lacking luster as they may. It’s hot. Think hydrant-splash on tarmac sans the hydrant. The pat-patpat on the rickety trailer door says Bob a million-to-one.

“I’m coming out,” I yell, embarrassed at the state of my dwelling, however absurd given the circumstances.

“Take your time,” he muffles through the clench of his pipe. “Eastern or Pacific?” Pants are a bitch to get into. I can’t remember washing them, so shrinkage is out. Then again, I can’t remember a good meal of late, so it’s official. I’m puzzled, and someone’s pocketed half the jigsaws.

“We got a visitor,” Bob says like you mention leftover omelet, but, of wont equanimous as fuck, a glint about his crowed eyes betrays excitement.

My jeans rip a hole in the universe, but a quick glance confirms they cover the essentials, and I fall over myself to get the fuck out. “How the hell,” I begin, stuttering, forgetting momentarily that the door hinges inward. How does that help anyone?

And by hinges I mean hanging by a thread like anybody’s guess. Hinged, until a moment ago. “How the hell’s that possible?” I manage finally, sizing up a playful twitch in that handlebar moustache. “The name’s Huda. Claims to know of a way out.” “What?”

“And cute.”

“I can’t wait.” Do we know how she got here? She was being overly technical about the matter. And quiet. Everyone’s pissed off, but letting her off the hook, focusing in stead on the remote chance of escaping. Like asking questions might jinx it. There’s no such thing. How can you tell? The odds are against the supernatural. Oh. I stand there, looking at Bob, and we say nothing for a good, oh, infinity, until a bunch of kids dart past like school’s out. “She staying at the Inn, then?” “Yeah, Martha wouldn’t have it any other way. Kicked out the midgets to make room. Asking for trouble if you ask me.”

For a second the mirth’s deserted him, and he pats down his flannel suit, in search of his pipe until he finds the stack jutted from his mouth, taking an air like he knew all along. “Probably.”

Bob sneaks a peek in the space vacated by the imposter door.

“We probably ought to take a look at that.”


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JERUSALEM POST BLOG 31 – Last year in Palestine

JERUSALEM POST BLOG 31 – Last year in Palestine

the-great-gatsby-boekLast year in Palestine. Sort of. It’s 2007. I have all but packed. Well, sort of. It’s a tough place to be at, sometimes. Even harder to leave. Although the food’s delicious, for many, it’s becoming increasingly difficult by the day to get fat, let alone find ample reason to sing. You catch my drift. Nothing worse than long, drawn-out goodbyes. Except for Palestine. I loved it here. I spent a full tenth of my young life here.

I turned thirty, and we took a boatload of people out into the sticks. Simon, who’d considered reaching the threshold an unlikely scenario, also turned thirty. Simon who, pretending to be a rightwinger often tried but somehow always failed to post ludicrous comments on this blog. A noble can’t-beat-them-mock-them sort of effort.

We drove out to Tireh on the outskirts of Ramallah for two consecutive Fridays, trunks rattling with drink and other supplies. And by other supplies I mean more drink. We somehow also managed to engage in a little slapdash barbequing, brought super soakers, and a Frisbee, which notoriously went missing in the course of the first outing. Good Frisbees are hard to come by, and a lot easier to misplace than, say, a boomerang. We stocked up in town and rode out, speakers crackling with seventies oldies. A more than apt thing to do on your thirtieth. “The dawning of the Age of Aquarius.”

An empty hill dotted with stubborn shrubbery between the last Palestinian houses and an Israeli army base is our playground. A goatherd quickly shoos his flock away from our deprivation.

The days are filled heeding Erasmus’ call. Ramallah’s pendulum of tragedy and fun swings decidedly to the latter. Let’s call it a survival mechanism, a switching off. Be sure to bring enough ice to keep your Taybehs cold. Not that they’re given much opportunity to warm up anyway. Over the past three years, and in the course of these blogs escape has been a recurring theme. In a sense writing itself acts like a necessary valve.

My life in Palestine was not the life of Palestinians and so, dear reader, you’ve been spared the worst of miseries, the pain, humiliation, and thwarted hopes festering in your backyard, the seeds that Hummers and concrete mixers help plow under of hate and an assured lease on strife. It’s there though, as real as the joy, potential, ambition, friendship, love, music, curiosity, arousal, jealousy, compassion, and spanning bridges.

Ardent Zionists often point out how this land is too small for two peoples. In a way I’d like to concur to the point where the conflict is situated on too small a plot to be labeled anything but a civil war. And damned, we stopped the Bosnians from butchering each other, am I wrong? And yes, they’d still be at it if no one had stepped in and went “What, are you nuts?” The comparison is sketchy, but all paintings begin with a little penciled doodling. I’m not writing a policy paper here. These aren’t blue prints. A lot is just throwing up crazy ideas; a stick in the henhouse as they say. That’s how evolution works. A genetic lottery that now and then produces ideas that ‘stick’. So to speak.

So go crazy. Top your Turvey. Erasmus was onto something. Fun itself is a leap of faith, that sometimes produces real-world applications. It’s what separates us from the animals, I believe. Use your noodle for more than hunting and gathering. We need a new paradigm here. Fighting’s old. God is dead. This is the Age of Aquarius, if only because of the sports drink. We’re going to Mars soon. I say cherish your old books, they hold great meaning, but dare to peak at your neighbor’s narrative. We. Must. Move. On.

It is possible to escape, and cast away your worries for entire hours at a time. But…. This is the point where, at the end of the column, and of this blog, I smartly reach back to the boomerang mentioned at the beginning. This is the point where, for the umpteenth time, I invoke fun and then shockingly juxtapose with “Hummer!”

A great day in Ramallah fizzles out and I feel like a Jay Gatsby and Tom Sawyer rolled into one, some distance from the campfire, staring at a light. A glaring reminder; the roof-mounted intrusion of a Hummer search-light.

I’m off to Belgium now. So long, and thank you for reading.



Blog comments:

1 | Jewchai, Monday Jun 16, 2008 So, what exactly did you do while living in Ramallah?

2 | Jim James, Monday Jun 16, 2008 thank you. if going back to belgium means you stop your stupid blog, then I thank you.

3 | Y. Kreminsky, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 It must be wonderful to live in Belgium, a country so perfect that you have to go halfway around the world to find social problems.

4 | Jane Sinclair, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 Oh, you’re going back to belgium finally? That sounds terrific. When? I hope soon.

5 | Jonathan Manfred, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 We won’t miss you.

6 | Elizabeth USA, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 Helo,Tom. Everyone is saying the war is coming. Are you going back to belgium for this reason? Tom, who was supporting you in Ramallah? The EU aid?

7 | Ofer, Haifa, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 I’ve travelled to Belgium several times and I haven’t been in many places where the people hate each other so much. So Tom instead of sticking your nose into things you don’t understand maybe you can solve Belgium’s problems first.

8 | baffled in Bet-El, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 I have never read your blog before, but now that I have, I see I missed nothing but another very spolied and amoral typical European who refuses to grow up (at thirty, you talk of my “young life”?!). Why did you come, what did you do here except pour fuel on the flames, and have a good time? Go back to Belgium and get yourself a life! (Also please learn to spell.)

9 | Morenos Spain, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 I’ve been to Brussels once. The city was cold and dull like its people living there. I came home after two days. Money thrown away. I can’t understand why EU have their headquarters in such a gloomy place and unpleasant people.

10 | anton loew, Tuesday Jun 17, 2008 Anton from New York, I was just in Brussels and it looks like the the Arab World . Their are so many Arabs I felt as if I was in Cairo. The local people are afraid to say word to the invaders. Now I can see why you are at home in Ramala you must feel at home or maybe you want to counter invade.

11 | Howie USA, Wednesday Jun 18, 2008 I have no idea what this guy is talking about

12 | Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem, Wednesday Jun 18, 2008 What an amazing profile of the life of a European. This is the imperial life isn’t it? This is the way a European spends his days. He gets paid to relax and have fun and critique others. It must be fascinating, this bourgouise coffee-house lifestyle. No work, just play. Playing on the misery of others. I have saved this story and I think you are indeed the model of the shallow European whose lifestyle consists only of critiquing others and playing at their conflicts and living the good life on the dime of some foolish ‘donor’ or taxpayer. Europe deserves what it gets.

13 | jeremy gilmore London, Wednesday Jun 18, 2008 As usual a beleding heart european who has no concept of what real life is like for the average israeli, I am intending to make make Aliyah to israel shortly and one of my real concerns is that my children will have to go in the army and defend themselves against the very people you were partying with. Why don’t you grow and get a real job and stop interfering in thing that you have no right to comment on.

14 | BaBa, Jerusalem, Wednesday Jun 18, 2008 we stopped the Bosnians from butchering each other?? we? who are we? are you living in this world? get on the internet maybe and read about what’s going on in Bosnia. and really get a life kid and a conscience when you go back to golden Belgium – don’t start a blog about Whalonnie though…you’ll be in trouble…

15 | lila Silver New YOrk, Wednesday Jun 18, 2008 Self-indulgent gibberish from babbling empty-headed fool. You think you are cultured but you are arrogant and simple-minded. Your flighty words add up to nothing and reveal your inability to think clearly. Stay away.

16 | Steve California, Thursday Jun 19, 2008 God is not dead. You might think Palestine is a very small piece of land, but I have to let you know that it was given to Abraham and his descendants thousands of years ago by the God of the Bible. Evidence that God exists: 1 Israel being declared a nation in 1948. It was prophesied right in the Bible thousands of years ago. God said he would scatter the Jews thoughout the World and they would be hated by all nations, but he would bring them back into their own land. This is a civil war. It is between the God of the Bible,Yahweh, and the God of Islam which is no god at all. I know who wins

17 | Tom Kenis, Brussels, Saturday Jun 21, 2008 You guys need all the help you can get, whether you like it or not. Nrs 1 to 16, thanks for helping me make that abundantly clear. Maybe one day you can come and advise the Flemish on how to deal with their minority (-ies).

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Ich habe sie geliebt. PART 5.

Ich habe sie geliebt. PART 5.

3-596-15803-6I finished “Ich habe sie geliebt” today. I had hoped to excavate from its innards a meaning, or at least a mere clue as to what happened to the bathtub. The book has Pierre, a grumpy pensioner, apparently defend his son’s unfaithfulness to Chloé, a stricken daughter-in-law. Pierre tells of his own secret past with a woman named Mathilda whom he loved, and who loved him. But unlike his son, he never managed to break loose, pending unhappy between two lives even after his paramour, fed up with the man’s indecision, walks away.

He remains, as shattered as his daughter-in-law, who’s left to fend for herself and two kids. In “Ich habe sie geliebt” Anna Gavalda seems to weigh the misery of deserter and deserted. The pain of inflicting pain, and the misery of failing to take clear decisions. In the end though, the balance hinges uneasy in between. Anna Gavalda asks the question but seems to indicate that failing a clear answer, human happiness will always be a fickle thing, a lottery at best. I fail to see a connection with my sanitary facilities’ infliction. Perhaps there is none. I cannot leave my bathtub, for it does not belong to me in the first place. Perhaps I belong to the bathtub.

Barring a major philosophical breakthrough, I have decided to simply fix the enamel. You can buy these little spray-on thingies apparently. Brico sells them for a mere tenner. Apply in multiple layers. Like onions, and ogres. Like life. Wait a minute…

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