May 2012: 'The Misfortunates' by Dimitri Verhulst
Dimitri Verhulst's highly-praised filmed novel, 'De helaasheid der dingen', was published in January 2012 in an English translation by David Colmer by Portobello Books, under the title, 'The Misfortunates'. The initial reviews on literary web blogs and in a number of newspapers are extremely laudatory.
'Winstonsdad's blog', which claims to feature the best in translated literature from all over the world, has included the trailer of the film in its review as it feels it gives such an accurate portrayal of the characters in the book. "I also got visions of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and a hard-edged version of the northern kitchen sink drama relocated to Belgium and scripted by Irvine Welsh," writes the critic.
On the blog 'The Bookmunch', with the subtitle 'Acerbic, pithy and/or witless bookstuff' Fran Slater addresses a seldom-seen word of thanks to author, translator and publisher: "Thank you David Colmer. Thank you Portobello Books. And most of all Thank You Dimitri Verhulst. You made the last few days of my life a very enjoyable place to be. Honestly, how can anyone not like a book that opens a chapter with the line:'Palmier was perfect mermaid material:she was slim and she stank of fish.'"
At 'Caustic Critic Cover', finally, a website devoted to cover design, James Morrison congratulates the publisher for choosing street artist Slinkachu to design the cover: "Portobello wisely commissioned Slinkachu to create the cover for this tale of a family of Belgian drunks and their misadventures."
In the influential quality daily 'The Financial Times' on 22 January Simon Kuper described how Dimitri Verhulst succeeds in avoiding the potholes that would have made his characters exaggerated freak show exhibits: "And so the author mostly avoids the main traps in writing about the underclass: he neither mocks his characters, nor feels sorry for them, nor mawkishly holds them up as models for the rest of us. In the end, the narrator is grateful that in adolescence a social worker whisked him from his loving but drunken home, into a succession of children's homes and foster families. This is a subtle and wonderfully told story."
In 'The Independent' of 8 February, Lucy Popescu adds: "Turning degenerate lives into literature is nothing new, but Verhulst's distinctive voice, childlike and knowing at the same time, is particularly resonant. His savage humour is refreshing in its honesty. Seamlessly translated from the Dutch by David Colmer, this is a welcome addition to the ranks of literary fiction that find humour, and sometimes poetry, in urban deprivation."
Gerard Woodward end his review in 'The Guardian' of 22 maart with words of praise: "It takes an exceptional writer to wring beauty from such material, but Verhulst manages it, and in the closing scenes he produces something of exquisite tenderness in the lavatory of a motorway service station. And not many novels do that."
Titles by Dimitri Verhulst that have appeared earlier in English are 'Problemski Hotel' and 'Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill'.