notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘Misfortunates’

The Misfortunates

In Review on October 28, 2012 at 8:18 PM

The Misfortunates

The Misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst must be one of the funniest books I read in the last few years. If you ever watched Shameless or read a Roddy Doyle novel (Paddy Clark ha ha ha) you’ll get the characters in Verhulst’s funny and also endearing novel. The Verhulsts have the same inverted pride in their own depravity, the same up-yours disregard for respectable society. The odd, ugly, excremental poetry of their grubby lives can be unexpectedly tender as well as uncomfortably funny; this novel continually surprises and intrigues.

In this semi-autobiographical novel, the author describes a childhood spent in a family of uncles – his father Pierre’s siblings – all of whom have fled their wives to return to the more accommodating maternal nest. As they see it, they have been set free to follow their true vocation of unfettered self-destruction through drink. They regard an early death as a fair price to pay. Apart from Dimitri’s grandmother, women are regarded as little more than obstacles to this project. Dimitri’s mother is dismissed as a “bourgeois cow”. The older Dimitri is able to say: “There are two people I hate. One gave birth to me and the other was giving birth to my child.” Women are feared because they awaken a form of self-consciousness and thence a sense of shame.

The Misfortunates is translated by the excellent David Colmer and published by Portobello Books. The film came out in 2010.

Other translated work by Verhulst: Madame Verona comes down the hill

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