Autobiography of Someone Else

Each year the winner of the Dutch Libris Prize is announced during a chic dinner in an imposing hotel with live TV coverage. Last year Herman Brusselmans was invited to comment on the prize and the gala event. Brusselmans didn’t mince words but promptly demolished the gentlemen of letters with their three-piece suits and bow ties, stuffing their faces and pontificating for the cameras. Not one of Brusselmans’s own books had been nominated. Didn’t that say enough about their lack of insight?

This writer has been an Angry Young Man ever since his first book and, judging by his success, the public approves of this stance. His latest book, the first part of a trilogy, is called Autobiografie van iemand anders because, although the main character and narrator of these short sketches is none other than Herman Brusselmans of Ghent, he feels as if he’s no longer the person he used to be. He is now 37 and, as a result, he has left his depressions behind him and is suffering from midlife crises instead. The author is still in the grip of a comic despair. Nothing has changed except that he keeps on getting older and this makes his humour even blacker.

Brusselmans tells about his present bachelor existence without Gloria or Phoebe to stand by him, about soporific TV programmes he watches, his achievements as the drummer of a band without a name, and about the Antwerp Book Fair where he’s saddled with his so-called colleagues. He also experiences every writer’s dream: ‘to get bad reviews and sell well’. If it happens the other way around you’re a loser, if they’re both good it’s embarrassing, and if they’re both bad you’re a complete loser.

One of his remarkable adventures features the TV celebrity and sexologist Goedele Liekens, who tries to cure the writer of his alleged impotence by crawling under their table in a petit restaurant. Her well-intended efforts don’t exactly solve his problems but they are hilarious, like all the meaningless events in the life of this contrary sufferer at the hands of fate.

In a recent radio interview Brusselmans expressed his admiration for Bret Easton Ellis. But whereas his Less than Zero is neither fish nor fowl and as a result soon loses your attention, Brusselmans’s humour and robust style are responsible for a story that you want to read to the end.

Annemiek Neefjes, Vrij Nederland

In the last few years I’ve got a lot more cynical. I used to go out of my way to see the positive side of things. Nowadays I don’t bother going out of my way at all.

Herman Brusselmans


Autobiografie van iemand anders (1996). Fiction, 214 pages.
Copies sold: 10,000



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