Back in 2011, when my novel was but an impulsive neuron playing Parkour across synapses somewhere in my brain, the title of my Magnum Opus was going to be The Bus Drivers. Shortly afterwards, that febrile neuron had to face the discipline board and its wiser elders settled upon Resilience as the working title for my book. The original title survives in the text as a little aside in a conversation––so you’ll be able to find out what I was thinking. Continue reading
My latest short story, Bait, went live this week. It is the tale of three young men from Antwerp who set out on a camping trip to the Belgian Ardennes in the 1970s. When they arrive, the place is teeming with gendarmes (Belgian para-military police)…
Bait is not crime fiction but a portrait sketch of headstrong young men whose plans are thrown into disarray, with surprising ramifications. It is available only as an e-book; check my author website for links.
To name your child after another person means to set up a connection from birth. To name your child after a loved one who perished under dramatic circumstances raises the stakes considerably. I was such a child, named after an uncle who died in 1952, a year before I was born. All through my childhood, Uncle Gilbert stared back at me from framed photographs at my grandparents’ place. Standing in the Texas desert, sitting in the cockpit of his training aircraft – always with his kind, dimpled smile. As I grew up, the family resemblances became more pronounced. But unlike Dorian Gray’s, his picture stayed the same as my face developed wrinkles and grooves – a small price to pay for the privilege of ageing.
I knew the stories, of course. As a young boy in World War II, Gilbert refused to seek shelter when the air raid sirens went off over Bonheiden, a small village in Flanders. Much to his parents’ frustration, he ran outside to watch the Allied formations pass over on their way to Germany. He was enthralled with Spitfires in particular, captivated by the elegance of their design. One day, he resolved, he would be flying a Spitfire, and that would be the best day of his life. Continue reading
It is an anniversary of sorts: 102 years ago, on 10 September 1914, my great-grandfather, Aloïs Delcon, was killed in his pub in Haacht (Belgium) by marauding German troops. His 16-year-old son fled the scene in a hail of gunfire and collapsed in an asparagus field with a shoulder wound.
In Fate and Asparagus (Kindle version) I tell the story of that encounter and the events that ensued and cast a shadow over our family for years to come. See the Fate and Asparagus page of my blog for other versions.
Nations line up, bristling.
Everyday symbols imbued with treachery.
A new spring heralds years of destruction.
A sunflower field receives fallen angels.
Nine dashes mark isles of discord.
Lessons learned at great cost
forgotten or disregarded.
Oh, reckless race.
There is no wisdom in these times.
Young men in black
in markets airports subways.
Young men in uniform
aim rockets bombs drones.
From Gaza to the Hindu Kush,
from Dhaka to Dallas,
there is no love in these times.
We live in fear
and turn against our brothers.
Our lives diminished
as we point out the others.
Our priests are on trial,
and we are led by fools.
There is no path for these times.
Too many homes
imploded into rubble.
Too many children
washed up on the shore.
Too many on the roads
with fevered dreams,
garrotted by the past.
Too many futures foregone.
So let us read old books
of fantasy, love and caring,
of gardens moist with dew.
Let us rise against the black tide
of hatred and despair.
Let us build, create and heal.
That is the wisdom for these times.
Let us look into our hearts
and remove those scabs of fear.
Ungird your angry armour
lest you turn into what you fight.
There is more to unite us,
on our fragile blue planet,
than to place us apart.
That is the love for these times.
Let us link hands
with our brothers and sisters.
Show them our love,
listen to their pain,
share our bread.
For violence feeds off itself
until it is quenched by love.
That is the path for these times.
Start right now.
© Gilbert F. J. Van Hoeydonck
20 July 2016
As I grew up, my grandfather’s wartime stories became darker and more complex. One day he told me a story he had never even told his wife.
Little did I know at the time that his tale would continue to dog me with surprising insistence, and that moving to the other side of the world would bring me closer to my family’s history in an unforeseen way…