Louis Paul Boon

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Hans Kolfschoten, Louis Paul Boon, Hanny Michaelis & Jacques Presser (1967) Burgemeester Kolfschoten, Louis Paul Boon, Hanny Michaelis en Jacques Presser (1967).jpg
Hans Kolfschoten, Louis Paul Boon, Hanny Michaelis & Jacques Presser (1967)

Louis Paul Boon (15 March 1912, in Aalst – 10 May 1979, in Erembodegem) was a Belgian writer of novels, poetry, pornography, columns and art criticism. He was also a painter. He is most known for the novels My Little War (1947), the diptych Chapel Road (1953) / Summer in Termuren (1956), Menuet (1955) and Pieter Daens (1971).

Aalst, Belgium Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Aalst is a city and municipality on the Dender River, 31 kilometres (19 mi) northwest from Brussels in the Flemish province of East Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Aalst itself and the villages of Baardegem, Erembodegem, Gijzegem, Herdersem, Hofstade, Meldert, Moorsel and Nieuwerkerken. Aalst is crossed by the Molenbeek-Ter Erpenbeek in Aalst and Hofstade. The current mayor of Aalst is Christoph D'Haese, from the New-Flemish Alliance party. The town has a long-standing (folkloric) feud with Dendermonde, which dates from the Middle Ages.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.



He was born in 1912 as Lodewijk Paul Aalbrecht Boon in Aalst, Belgium, the oldest son in a working-class family. Although he was still very young during the First World War, memories of a German soldier shooting a prisoner will end up in later autobiographical work. Boon left school at age 16 to work for his father as a car painter [1] . He was expelled from school for possession of forbidden books. During evenings and weekends he studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts, but soon had to abandon his studies due to lack of funds. In 1936 he married Jeanneke De Wolf. Three years later, their son Jo was born.

World War II

In September 1939, Boon was mobilised and stationed as a soldier in Gooik and Tessenderlo. Boon was moved to Veldwezelt at the outbreak of World War II in May 1940 in order to defend the Albert Canal. However, he was captured as a prisoner of war on the first day and eventually sent home, after a few weeks in a prisoner camp. His experiences during the War and mostly the Occupation are the subject of Boon's fourth book, My Little War (1947).

<i>My Little War</i> novel by Louis Paul Boon

My Little War is the fourth novel by Louis Paul Boon, first published in 1947. A translation was produced by Paul Vincent in 2010.

After writing an unpublished novel, Boons official debut came in 1942 with De voorstad groeit (The suburb grows). It was award the Leo J. Krynprijs at the recommendation of Willem Elsschot. His next novel was loosely based on the life of Vincent van Gogh, Abel Gholarts (1944, not available in translation).

Willem Elsschot Flemish writer

Alphonsus Josephus de Ridder, was a Belgian writer and poet who wrote under the pseudonym Willem Elsschot. A number of his works have been translated into English.

Vincent van Gogh Influential Dutch Post-Impressionist painter (1853–1890)

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. However, he was not commercially successful, and his suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

After World War II

Boon started working as a journalist for the communist daily De Rode Vaan (1945–1946), Front (1946–1947) and De Vlaamse Gids (1948). Later he contributed to the newspaper Vooruit with which he established himself as a freelancer. In subsequent years, Boon continued to combine newspaper and literary work, and will even add painting and sculpture to his activities. His literary output ranges from short prose, longer experimental novels, one man magazine's, documentary and historical novels, poetry, erotic works and fairy tales.

A freelancer or freelance worker, is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Freelance workers are sometimes represented by a company or a temporary agency that resells freelance labor to clients; others work independently or use professional associations or websites to get work.

Boon died in his home in Erembodegem in 1979 at the age of 67.

My Little War

His experiences during World War II and the Occupation are the subject of Boon's fourth book, My Little War (1947, translation 2010 by Paul Vincent, Dalkey Archive Press). With this title Boon emerged for the first time as an important innovator of the novel. Rather than containing one story, "My Little War" contains over thirty loosely interrelated chapters, each containing a story that can be read as an independent piece. Most stories describe the difficult circumstances of life during the Occupation, such as finding food and fuel to warm the house, some deal with the deteriorating sexual mores, and some treat more direct war experiences such as bombings. Yet the overarching structure, though well hidden, makes for a coherent whole as well. The stories are interspersed with numerous raw fragments about equally raw incidents during the Occupation as the short stories: rape, theft, treason, humiliation. Boon admitted that the work of John Dos Passos provided the inspiration for this literary device. In this book, the term 'enemy' by no means signifies Germans exclusively, even though one story tells of the extermination of a Jewish girl and another of a camp prisoner's experiences. People are just as likely, if not more, to be robbed of food, money, or even their spouse's fidelity by their neighbours as they are by the Germans.

Chapel Road

In 1953 he published the work that now stands as his greatest masterpiece, Chapel Road (De Kapellekensbaan, translated by Adrienne Dixon), which he began to write as early as 1943. Its dazzling construction combines several narrative threads, including an almost postmodern one where the writer and his friends discuss how the story should develop further. Another one is an extensive reworking of the most classic medieval work in the Dutch language, the twelfth-century story of Reynard the fox.


Boon's literary legacy is a versatile, ranging from journalistic pieces on Belgian politics and society to erotic novelas. In historical novels such as De Bende van Jan de Lichte, De zoon van Jan de Lichte, De Zwarte Hand, and Daens, he depicted the oppression of the working class in 19th century Flanders; in his controversial Geuzenboek, he wrote about the Spanish domination of the Low Countries in the 16th century. Nearly all of Boon's work was infused by his profound commitment to socialism; in experimental, modernistic works such as Vergeten straat, Boon projected an ideal society but at the same time shared his doubts as to whether human nature could achieve utopia.

Nobel Prize

Boon was thought to have been shortlisted for a Nobel Prize in Literature in the late 1970s, and even received an invitation to appear at the Swedish Embassy, probably to be told that the Prize had been awarded to him.[ citation needed ] The day before the appointment he died at his writing table of a heart attack. Very little of his writing has been translated into English, but De Kapellekensbaan and Zomer in Ter-Muren are both available in English translation from Dalkey Archive Press as Chapel Road and Summer in Termuren, and Paul Vincent's translation of Mijn kleine oorlog (as My Little War) was published by Dalkey in 2009.

Selected bibliography

Translated in English

Other selected works, not translated

See also

  1. "Boon, Louis Paul". www.dbnl.org. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  2. "My Little War". Dalkey Archive Press. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  3. "Chapel Road". Dalkey Archive Press. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  4. "Summer in Termure". Dalkey Archive Press. Retrieved April 12, 2019.

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