‘A Sleepless Summer’ by Bram Dehouck – Rampant Mischief In a Small Town in Flanders

 

‘A Sleepless Summer’ by Bram Dehouck (2011) – 179 pages Translated from the Dutch by Jonathan Reeder

The folks in this little Belgian town of Blaashoek are nasty for sure, but their nastiness is the same kind we encounter in our own lives every day.

If your own life is a failure then nothing beats seeing someone else’s life fail even more. She no longer strove for her own happiness, but lived for the unhappiness of others.”

Nastiness is all around us. Bram Dehouck just takes this neighborly nastiness to the next level. When these townspeople are fed up, they grab something, usually a gun, and commit violent acts.

Sadly or comically, as the case may be, the nastiness gets out of hand, and the town descends into chaos, all to the tune of the incessant whirring noise of the ten electric wind turbines that have been installed next to the town. Perhaps it is this constant whirr that is driving the townspeople crazy.

Each character we meet is credible and crazy at the same time. Herman Bracke who runs the town butcher shop is famous for his delicious summer paté which the townspeople love. One night he uses the paté mix to cover his ears to block out the nonstop noise of the wind turbines, and his wife Claire persuades him to sell it in the meat shop anyway. Unfortunately a mass outbreak of diarrhea from food poisoning ensues. We the readers are subjected to all the individual twists and turns and embarrassments caused by this diarrhea

This may be dark humor but it is also low rather crude humor. I found most of the incidents in ‘A Sleepless Summer’ rather raunchy and coarse. One of the town ladies has wild sex with the only black immigrant in town, a man named Bienvenue, without any explanation of how they met. Here the author is just playing to town prejudices.

There are a few occasions where the humor in ‘A Sleepless Summer’ is not so crude, and these are the parts that I enjoyed the most. The quite young woman Saskia ran away from her grandfather’s farm and is now looking for work without much luck. Her advisor gives her some advice:

There was no need to feel unworthy or unwanted. Businesses received hundred of applications for a single job. The odds of them choosing you were smaller than of being run over by a garbage truck in broad daylight. Saskia had to laugh at that. Since then she had caught herself keeping an eye out for garbage trucks when crossing the street.”

However Saskia, like nearly everyone else, is ultimately caught up in the insanity and brutality of this small town.

In the end we come back to the cynicism that pervades this narrow-minded small town.

He did not believe what Catherine said, that people forgive and forget. People forget the bad things about themselves, but when it’s someone else, they forget only the good. Mistakes come back to haunt you, even years later.”

Perhaps that cynicism is warranted?

 

Grade:   B-

 

3 responses to this post.

  1. That author is also pandering to myth-making about wind turbines. It’s been researched extensively all over the world and there is not a shred of evidence that they cause humans any harm.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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