The misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst

The misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst

Belgian fiction

Translator David Colmer

Dimitri Verhulst is a Belgian writer and he grew up in a broken home and spent a lot of time in foster care .This is often reflected in his fiction .He has written several novel and short stories .The misfortunates ,was made into a film in 2009.The film won a prize in Cannes .

I add the trailer ,which to me seems to capture the character in the book so well .We follow Dimmy the son he is at school and is at a point where he could follow his father and his uncles into a life of drink and misadventures or he could put his head down and study .Now we follow a period as Dimmy begins to see his family are maybe a little different from the normal family .That time as you turn from a child to a teen and a young man ,he is 13 as this happens .

The male members of the Dimmy’s  family,  Dimmy’s father and his uncle’s Potrel ,Herman and Grider  spend a lot of time drinking in the pub  and ending up doing thinks because of the drink like having a naked cycle race this made me smile as I love cycling and the fact that grown men decide to copy the men they seen by doing it naked was funny .They did this as Dimmy was getting drawn towards cycling and being more disciplined in his life .Now Will of Just William compared it to Shameless with chips and Mayo .Which I agree with ,I also got visions of saturday night sunday morning and a hard-edged version of the northern Kitchen sink drama relocate to Belgium and scripted by Irvine Welsh . As the quote below shows this is even linked in the book .

It was only later ,when I read Alan Silltoe’s best known work ,The loneliness of the long distance runner ,that I realized that it had been pure logic that had turned me into a runner as a child .

I loved this quote linking his life a bit with Kitchen sink drama classic loneliness of long distance runner .


This book has a feel of a roman a clef  slammed with a coming of age novel .I feel this is Dimitri looking back in some ways to the point he became the writer he is now ,a Robert Frost moment take the trodden path that his family has taken or that unknown one that he seems more drawn too .The book can tug at the heartstrings this is a tough world ,but also a world that has a certain pathos to it .

I enjoyed this book ,I felt this was a very realistic book  given the writers own history ,I read an  interview with him here ,which was interesting in both a small insight into him and also an insight into Belgium .As it is mainly about the Flemish/Wallonia divide that has appeared in recent years in Belgium .I really want to watch the film and hope it gets shown or a uk DVD  release which it hasn’t seemed to as of yet .


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Parrish
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 21:07:22

    I loved the idea of this when I saw it on Tom’s site & wish-listed it, this makes me think it needs a higher status & be placed in my basket. :~ )


  2. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 23:05:35

    Happy New Year. You always make me realise that there are more books to read. Perhaps I should dedicate a year for translations. I haven’t read any Belgian novels, just as I haven’t read much of Russian or other Scandinavian novels. Thanks for this review.


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 15, 2012 @ 19:56:26

      Happy new year Nana ,There aren’t many Beligan writers around in english it is a country that seems to have less translated than other european countries ,all the best stu


  3. Tony
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 00:20:56

    This sounds very interesting 🙂 Is it a rose-coloured spectacles look back or a realisation of how bad things were?


  4. Penny
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 03:48:01

    This author’s dedication to social responsibility of literature is impressive. From the interview you linked — “Maar laten we niet vergeten dat literatuur ook een ander gezicht heeft: dat van verantwoordelijkheid en van mensen de ogen openen, van engagement. Het is dat laatste dat me aantrekt.” [We do not forget that literature has another face, that of responsibility, awareness, commmitment. It is the last that attracts me.] Someone, please, translate this better, I am weak in this language and can only catch the gist of his thought.


  5. Louise
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 07:58:05

    Hi Stu, Your review is a nice take on the story. The film has been out on DVD in the U.S. since 2009. It’s in French, so check in that category. The film is a bit bawdy for me, but you have humanized the story for me, and I enjoy reading what you think, so I may re-watch sometime!


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 15, 2012 @ 19:50:35

      I saw us version out unfortuantely we have different region dvd’s and french one that is out very expensive second hand ,hopefully come out in uk at some point or be shown on tv ,all the best stu


  6. Kinna
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 18:32:16

    Parenting and its associated conditioning is so strong that it’s always intriguing when someone breaks away from the mold. Thanks for the review.


  7. Trackback: Review: The Misfortunates | Giraffe Days

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

January 2012


%d bloggers like this: