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De Kapellekensbaan
Louis Paul Boon
publisher: De Arbeiderspers, 1953

translated as:
Chapel Road
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1972
translation: Adrienne Dixon

refered to by:
Journey to the End of the Night
Louis-Ferdinand Céline

The Sorrow of Belgium
Hugo Claus

James Joyce

full text search:

the ledge - flash version*


To characterize Chapel Road is like saying what colour a rainbow is. Part historical novel, part contemporary novel and commentary on its own genesis, it also contains humorous reworkings of the medieval tale of Reynard the Fox. While displaying a scepticism towards contemporary culture, cynicism about the future of socialism and a realistic view of human nature, the novel does not shy away from the big issues. A masterpiece of modern Flemish literature, Chapel Road (first published in Dutch in 1953) is ebullient and daring.

Behind this world-in-a-novel is the Flemish author Louis Paul Boon – journalist, writer and artist, sometime socialist and house painter. He is present in the novel, too, as johan janssens (names are not capitalized in this book), poet and journalist, and the writer of the historical novel which takes shape before the reader’s eyes: the story of ondine, daughter of the eccentric vapeur and a madwoman. Born into poverty, she has an overwhelming desire to leave behind the life of Chapel Road and its factories. She steals, and uses her sexuality to gain entrance to the world of the factory owners, too ignorant to realize that this is no solution, and drowns her illegitimate baby. Eventually ondine’s instinct for survival leads her to lower her
sights and marry the weedy oskar, and the story ends with them embarking on their married life in a dismal cockroach-infested room above a cafe. In the background to the ondine story, the socialists are beginning to get organized. They offer a way out of the wretched conditions on Chapel Road. But ondine, with her aspirations, is against them.

The ondine story is punctuated by the gatherings of the writer and his friends at which this work-in-progress is discussed, and by the slapstick of the Reynard stories. The fox, like ondine, must live by his wits. He plays dead and then eats or steals from unsuspecting victims; he breaks into his uncle the wolf’s house and steal a side of pork. The pair of them cause mayhem when they follow a group of animal pilgrims, plotting to eat the cockerel and goose for supper. At the glorious climax, the wolf comes crashing through the window of the inn and the donkey falls through the ceiling on top of the humiliated wolf.

This novel makes no apologies for the distinctly Flemish character of its language, its setting or its abundant topical references, yet it is never parochial. Reading Chapel Road is an experience that combines eavesdropping, voyeurism, and confrontation with tragedy and farce. (from:

bookweb from:
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1880
Three sons find their violent and vengeful lives exposed when their despicable father is murdered, and each man struggles to come to terms with his guilt over his involvement in the crime.

Notes from the Underground
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1866
The first novel from Dostoevsky's mature 'second period' works, divided in two parts, presents an unnamed protagonist, a twisted angry student, and his worldview. It is one proud man's cry for help and perverse rejection of the world around him.

Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1871-1872
A powerful political tract and a profound study of atheism, depicting the disarray which follows the appearance of a band of modish radicals in a small provincial town. (Also published as The Possessed and The Devils)

Crime and Punishment
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1866
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck.

Manhattan Transfer
John Dos Passos, 1925
'Fast-paced'' vignettes in the lives of numerous characters create a portrait of New York City in the early twenties.

John Dos Passos, 1930-1936
In this experimental trilogy, Dos Passos uses 'camera eye' and 'newsreel' sections to create a fragmented atmosphere. Through the testimony of numerous characters, both fictional and historical figures, he builds up a composite picture of American society in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Journey to the End of the Night
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, 1932
The picaresque adventures of Bardamu move from the battlefields of World War I (complete with buffoonish officers and cowardly soldiers), to French West Africa, the United States, and back to France in a style of prose that's lyrical, hallucinatory, and hilariously scathing toward nearly everybody and everything. Yet, beneath it all one can detect a gentle core of idealism.

The Idiot
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1868
The saintly Prince Myshkin returns to Russia from a Swiss sanitorium and finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with wealth, power and sexual conquest.

Émile Zola, 1885
Written to draw attention to the misery prevailing among the poor in France during the Second Empire, this novel depicts the grim struggle between capital and labour in a coalfield in northern France. Yet, through the blackness of this picture, humanity is constantly apparent.

Nivardus, ca. 1150

Reynard the Fox
Anonymous, 1275
Latin satire about a wolf and a fox mourns the fate of man.

Lady Chatterley's Lover
D.H. Lawrence, 1928
Constance Chatterly is deeply unhappy; married to an invalid, she is almost as inwardly paralyzed as her husband Clifford is paralyzed from below the waist. She finds refuge and regeneration in the arms of Mellors the gamekeeper. But can she break out against the constraints of society?


Chapel Road
"Chapel Road is one long, exuberant flow of language... Boon's people not only breathe, but like Céline's they urinate, defecate, blow their noses in their palms, and make love, or what passes for it, in ditches... Chapel Road deserves to be read, for if Louis Paul Boon cannot get the whole world into a book, he does manage to encompass much of it. "
- Nation

[Brief aan Boudewijn]
Walter van den Broeck, 1980
Writer guides his king through the reality of Belgium.

[De vermaledijde vaders]
Monika van Paemel, 1985
Epic novel about East Flanders in the 20th century.

Geertrui Daem, 1992
Seven cloistrophobic tales about young girls growing up in Roman-Catholic Flanders in the 1960s.

Tonguecat: A Novel
Peter Verhelst, 1999
Tonguecat tells the story of a city's decline into chaos and violence upon the arrival of Prometheus, the titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Prometheus finds himself in a counterculture of squatters, junkies and story-telling whores, called Tonguecats.

Mrs Dalloway
Virginia Woolf, 1925
Brilliant modernist novel about a day in the life of a London society lady.

As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner, 1930
The death and burial of Addie Bundren is told by members of her family, as they cart the coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi, to bury her among her people.

In the Labyrinth
Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1953
A soldier wanders through the maze of a wartime city's streets, anxious to deliver a package entrusted to him by a dying comrade.

The Black Book
Orhan Pamuk, 1990
Galip, an Istanbul lawyer, suspects that his vanished wife is hiding out with her half-brother, a newspaper columnist whose fame Galip envies. Galip plays the part of private investigator, with dire consequences.

Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company
Multatuli, 1860
Sending shockwaves through the Dutch nation when it was published in 1860, this damning expose of the terrible conditions in the colonies led to welfare reforms in Java and continues to inspire the fairtrade movement today.

The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck, 1939
Set against the background of Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, this novel tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land.

[Het goddelijke monster]
Tom Lanoye, 1997
A burlesque parable of mythical and festering Flanders.

Les misérables
Victor Hugo, 1862
France in the first quarter of the 19th century: Jean Valjean, a poor man, steals a loaf of bread and then spends years trying to escape his reputation as a criminal. In later years he rises to become a respectable member of society; but policeman Javert will not allow him to forget his past.

[De voorstad groeit]
Realistic panorama of a factory town in times of moderization.
[Vergeten straat]

My Little War
A chronicle of good and evil, rich and poor, collaboration and resistance.

[Pastorale 1943]
S. Vestdijk, 1948

The Sorrow of Belgium
Hugo Claus, 1983

Summer in Termuren
Sequel to Chapel Road. Described by the author as 'the novel of the individual in a world of barbarians', it is the story of Ondine and Oscarke, a young married couple adrift in a Belgian landscape that is darkening under the spread of industry and World War I.
The story of a 'love triangle', told three times, from three different perspectives.
[Pieter Daens]
Textile factory workers in Aalst, Belgium fight poverty and injustice.

Émile Zola, 1885
Considered by André Gide to be one of the ten greatest novels in the French language, Germinal is a brutal depiction of the poverty and wretchedness of a mining community in northern France under the second empire.

The Octopus
Frank Norris, 1901
Based on an actual, bloody dispute between wheat farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880, this is the story of the waning days of the frontier West.

[Wapenbroeders: een getrouwe bewerking der aloude boeken over Reinaert en Isengrimus]


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The Ledge
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