It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a book from another country wins a prize from another country the sales team of the publisher of the UK edition will ask: “Can we say the prize is the ‘[insert country here] Booker’?”
And in this case they certainly can. Belgian writer Peter Terrin (who writes in Flemish, or Dutch as we note on the copyright page) has won the A.K.O. Literatuurprijs 2012 for his novel Post Mortem. The A.K.O. is sponsored by the Netherlands’ leading bookselling chain, is awarded on live television and is worth €50,000.
Peter Terrin’s previous novel, The Guard, was the winner of a European Literature Prize, and has recently been published in English by MacLehose Press. Eileen Battersby wrote of the novel in the Irish Times:
This is a tremendous novel, often horrifically funny and always unsettling. Most emphatically, though, it is a European novel, articulating the cultural situation of a Flanders-born writer looking to Dutch literature while retaining a powerful awareness of Belgium’s surrealist traditions. Kafka is an obvious influence, as are Camus, Ionesco’s absurdist theatre and, at times, the American Robert Coover, but most magnificently of all, suspended over The Guard as a presiding talisman, is the presence of Willem Frederik Hermans (1921-1995) and his dazzling odyssey, The Darkroom of Damocles (1958), a wartime thriller set in the Netherlands that balances truth and delusion. Hermans looked to Gogol – as does Terrin, who creates the impression that his short, vivid chapters have been tossed into the air and arranged in the order in which they fell
So, congratulations Peter Terrin, and many happy returns!
The Guard is available in hardback