Entry of Christ into Brussels
The second coming of Jesus Christ in 21th Century Brussels
One day, the news announces that Jesus Christ is to visit Belgium on its national holiday, the 21st of July. During the same period, the narrator’s mother dies and his relationship ends. Feeling low, and fluctuating between resentment, irony and cynicism, he reports on the events. The authorities squabble about the reception. From the asylum seekers’ centre, they get a girl of eleven who can speak Aramaic with Christ.
As the date draws near, the whole city brightens up – everyone is cheerful and full of good will. On the 21st of July, hundreds of thousands of people take part in a party with an official reception committee, folklore, religious invocations and public penance while the eleven-year-old girl dreams of showing Jesus the grey areas of Brussels. But Christ doesn’t appear. Everyone returns to their isolation and lethargy. A liveable society appears to be a ‘pleasant lie’.
Like Godverdomse dagen op een godverdomse bol (Goddamned Days on a Goddamned Sphere), this new novel by Dimitri Verhulst resembles both a quirky pamphlet and a moral fable. The narrator considers himself part of the ‘lost generation’, which has no illusions about the state of the world – both in absurd Belgium and in the distressingly imperfect world beyond.
However, that doesn’t stop him from sometimes express- ing harsh criticism. He puts a finger on the symptomatic fever blisters of contemporary society, the so-called ‘malcontent mass’. Although his irony and social satire remain mostly playful and light, they are based on a solid fundamental base, leading Verhulst to categorically reject, for instance, the rise in nationalism. With his bizarre fantasy and poignant stylistic verve, he exposes an embarrassing reality, which often makes you laugh conspiratorially, but also causes for a deep concern.