Poetic diary of everyday life
Bernard Dewulf’s Kleine dagen (Small Days) features a selection of columns published on alternate days on the front page of the Flemish paper De Morgen, often the first article the reader would read. The column was popular for its familiar intimacy when contrasted with serious news.
In Kleine dagen we read about Dewulf’s wife and two children, their family life and details of everyday life. He follows his children’s development from birth to puberty, from security to detachment. Their silent presence at home, their experiences at school, their dealings with the world outside, their prospects in life, their first questions about sex. The strength of the family bond is clear from how much they miss each other when either the author or his wife is away from home. Often these occasions summon up memories of his own childhood and his own relationship with his parents. In so doing, the writing is suffused with the notion of time passing. Dewulf says that he ‘studied to be a sceptic,’ which led him to realise that happiness (not in fact the word he uses) is conditional and temporary, and that in the end, our entire existence is futile. This shows in the melancholy of his intimate writings, without in the slightest detracting from their charm.
Bernard Dewulf’s prose is striking for its subdued tone, its beautiful metaphors and its natural lyricism. He pins down fleeting, ordinary moments into valuable, intimate tableaux and in his own idiosyncratic way, makes personal experience universally recognisable. How wonderful it must be for his children to see their childhood recorded so well by a loving author father! Kleine dagen is a unique poetic diary of daily life, evoking affection and admiration in equal measure.