Passa Porta Festival director Ilke Froyen selects her favourite Belgian books

With the Passa Porta Festival‘s sixth edition kicking off today, Brussels is set for bookworms of all walks of life to descend upon the city and indulge in their passion for words and writings. With over 100 Belgian and international authors of all languages and genres sharing their ideas, their love of words and their passion for texts, a multitude of encounters, debates and events are programmed throughout the city, in some 20 different venues (View the entire programme here). And, to mark the two-day fest opening this evening, we tasked its director Ilke Froyen with handpicking some of her favourite Belgian books, a selection that focuses on some of the more contemporary and lesser-known titles from both sides of the linguistic divide.

WIL – Jeroen Olyslaegers

WIL is a truly remarkable novel. It’s the final instalment of Jeroen Olyslaegers’ trilogy about twentieth-century Flanders and maybe his best work yet. It’s about collaboration and resistance in Antwerp during the second World War. Subtle, well-documented and immensely gripping.

Crâne – Patrick Declerck

Crâne tells the story about the night before the operation that Patrick Declerck had to have on his brain. The story is all the more fascinating by his biting sense of humour and unfailing lucidity.

Toen David zijn stem verloor – Judith Vanistendael

Judith Vanistendael’s graphic novel Toen David zijn stem verloor tells the story of an ageing bookseller who gets diagnosed with cancer. Vanistendael, through her beautiful drawings and words, shows the impact this terrible illness has on his family. A truly heart-wrenching story about life and death.

Rodéo – Aiko Solovkine

Aiko Solovkine wrote Rodéo in just three months. To meet this self-imposed deadline, she had to spend a lot of sleepless nights and this sense of urgency permeates the novel. It won the Prix de la première œuvre of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in 2016.

Toen de zee stil was – Annelies Beck

Toen de zee stil was is a philosophical picture book written by writer and journalist Annelies Beck (VRT) and illustrator Karolien Raeymaekers. It’s a story about the beauty of silence and the imagination.

Dans la maison un grand cerf – Caroline Lamarche

In her tender and generous style, Caroline Lamarche mixes the loss of a father, the help of friends and a love story in one book. A journey with the author under the sign of the deer.

La cire moderne – Max de Radiguès 

La cire moderne is a charming graphic novel by Max de Radiguès and children’s author Vincent Cuvellier. It’s a story about a boy who inherits a candle factory from his mysterious uncle and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

Wonderbra’s en pepperspray – Andy Fierens

Poet and performer Andy Fierens’ Wonderbra’s en pepperspray is hilarious and uncompromising. His incredible lust for life oozes from every page. A true delight.

Un monde sur mesure – Nathalie Skowronek

In her latest novel, Un monde sur mesure, Nathalie Skowronek tells the story of her Jewish ancestors who fled from Poland to Belgium where they established a clothing enterprise. The story spans over four generations and gives the reader a beautiful insight into the craft of making clothes.

Over alles en voor iedereen – Christophe Van Gerrewey

Over alles en voor iedereen: an incredibly interesting essay collection by Christophe Van Gerrewey in which he discusses fifty important public figures, ranging from Theodor Adorno to Michael Jordan.