Books by Belgians or Based In Brussels… Can you Help?

If all goes to plan I will be off to Brussels at the end of next week on a mini break (for work, so not so much of a break actually). That sounds more leisurely than it actually is as the itinerary will be quite full, but there is some travelling around and ‘time of my own’ to go and explore, wander the streets and find little cafes to sit and read in. And that’s where I wanted your help. What books by Belgians or based in Brussels could you recommend?

I’ve got the obligatory travel/city guides from the library…


…But I do like to have some fiction from the country with me too. Some crime might be good, so could some quirky literature, or indeed a classic. In fact any suggestions are welcome. I will be taking Daphne Du Maurier with me but have room for one more book. Can you advise?



Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

24 responses to “Books by Belgians or Based In Brussels… Can you Help?

  1. Which city are you off to, hun? x

  2. Ignore me, I didn’t read it properly. You’re off to Brussels, of course! x

  3. Famous Belgian authors who wrote/write in Dutch: Hugo Claus, Willem Elsschot, Tom Lanoye. In French: Georges Simenon.

    I have unfortunately not read anything by these four, except “Cheese” by Elsschot which I thought was okay-ish.

    Perhaps Alex/thesleeplessreader can help you out? She lives in Belgium. Her twitter account is @sleeplessreader

  4. A contemporary Belgian author, Amelie Nothomb. She’s written quite a few books but the one I read was Fear & Trembling about a young Belgian girl who does an internship in Japan. It was fascinating.

  5. gaskella

    Indulge your inner child and take a Tin Tin – Herge was Belgian.

  6. I can only think of Herge – at least it would be a slim volume.

  7. Tin Tin!!
    And make sure you indulge in some great Belgian beer (Kwak is awesome — especially if they serve it in the correct glass & stand) — and Belgian chocolate while you are there!

  8. Dimitri Verhulst is one of the most popular Belgian authors right now. His work is pretty accessible and has been translated into English. Hugo Claus, Tom Lanoye and Erwin Mortier are perfect if you’re in the mood for beautiful prose. If it’s crime you’re looking for, then Pieter Aspe is your guy. He’s the bestselling author here in Belgium. The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs is also highly recommended.

    • Hi Rebecca, it’s good to (virtually) meet other books bloggers in Belgium. I only know of the existence of another one – Joanna, from It’s All About (Me) Time. We should have a meet-up at some point!

  9. cath

    Hubert Lampo (1920- 2006) wrote mainly Magical Realism, I suppose you could call The Coming of Joachim Stiller (1960) a classic in that respect. The location of the novel is Antwerp and with almost 200 pages it’s small enough to take with you, either there or home again..

  10. So you’re coming to my side of the woods 🙂 Here’s some recommendations:
    – “A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians” by Harry Pearson – memoires of a Brit in Belgium (he’s now a sports writer for The Guardian)
    – “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte. Villette is Brussels with a different name – the novel was inspired by the time Charlotte & Emily lived here. Most places she describes are easily recognizable.
    – “The Lady and the Unicorn” by Tracy Chevalier”, historical fiction set partly in a tapestry atelier in Brussels
    – Poirot’s short-story “The Chocolate Box” is about his time in Brussels and the only failure of his professional career (there’s also a movie).
    – Haven’t read it yet, but heard that “Under the Poppy” by Kathe Koja is very good (I’m waiting for the paperback to come out)
    – When it comes to comics I’d recommend anything by François Schuiten, in particular his series “Les Cités Obscures”, the 5th volume is called “Brüsel” and can be read independently. He also authored a Brussels city-guide for Lonely Planet (

    Hope that’s enough. Let me know if you need more tips or a tour. Have fun!

  11. If you haven’t read Villette by Charlotte Bronte yet Simon, you must! Villette is just a thinly disguised Brussels. I think it’s a better book, technically, than Jane Eyre, but for reasons you’ll understand when you read it, it doesn’t have the endearingness necessary to make it loveable, unfortunately. That’s not to mean it’s not a fantastic read, because it really, really is. Have a lovely time in Brussels! I’ve never been and I’d love to go.

  12. I would also recommend Dimitri Verhulst, his novels are excellent and heartbreaking.

  13. I was going to suggest Villette – but someone already has! Not sure, but I think some of Katherine Mansfield’s short stories are set in Belgium.

  14. cath

    I forgot: The first part of Sue Gee’s Letters From Prague is situated in Brussels, (followed by Berlin and Prague).

  15. novelinsights

    Read some Christie Poirot… n’est pas! I have no other suggestions. Brussels sound exciting 🙂

  16. I second Amelie Nothomb. Fantastic writer.

    • Rebecca

      Claire, this link goes to your own, self-published novel. She asked about REAL books, you know, by published writers. Don’t think we’re stupid enough to fall into the trap: it’s such an obvious self-advertisement it makes you seem really desperate.

      Now for some real advice about Belgian literature:
      In Dutch: Dimitri Verhulst and Tom Lanoye, as previously mentioned.
      In French: Francois Emmanuel and Thomas Gunzig
      These people are contemporary. If you want mystery novels, read anything by Simenon. And indulge yourself in comic books, especially Tin Tin, because it’s so typically Belgian.

      Oh, I almost wanted to give you a link to my own webcomic pretending it was a famous thing by someone else, but I will abstain.

  17. There’s also Didier van Cauwelaert and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt – some of his stuff at least is set in Belgium. Amelie Nothomb is good but some of her stuff is a bit odd, just be warned!

  18. t’s pretty harsh to read that, belittling two years’ worth of hard work and a book that people seem to quite enjoy!
    It’s not actually self-published; it’s on an author showcase website, so I don’t get any money from anyone reading it there, if that’s what you’re implying.
    I also don’t think I pretended it was famous or written by someone else – apologies, Mr Savidge, if I misled you.

  19. Wow lots of suggestions! I did read them all… and then didnt take any with me (I even forgot Villette) but I am hoping to go back in the non too distant future so will keep these recommendations to hand. I want to read Villette anyway.

  20. Living with Spies is set in Brussels. A very funny romp through the expat set.

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