The Misfortunates | Granta

  • Published: 03/01/2013
  • ISBN: 9781846271595
  • 129x20mm
  • 208 pages

The Misfortunates

Dimitri Verhulst

Translated by David Colmer

Sobriety and moderation are alien concepts to the men in Dimmy’s family. Useless in all other respects, his three uncles have a rare talent for drinking, a flair for violence, and an unwavering commitment to the pub. And his father Pierre is no slouch either. Within hours of his son’s birth, Pierre plucks him from the maternity ward, props him on his bike, and takes him on an introductory tour of the village bars. His mother soon leaves them to it and as Dimmy grows up amid the stench of stale beer, he seems destined to follow the path of his forebears and make a low-life career in inebriation, until he begins to piece together his own plan for the future… In this semi-autobiographical novel, Dimitri Verhulst brings his shambolic upbringing to life, with characteristic warmth, colour, and wit.

The odd, ugly, excremental poetry of their grubby lives can be unexpectedly tender as well as uncomfortably funny... It takes an exceptional writer to wring beauty from such material, but Verhulst manages it... this novel continually surprises and intrigues

Gerard Woodward, Guardian

Verhulst's distinctive voice, childlike and knowing at the same time, is resonant. His savage humour is refreshing in its honesty... this is a welcome addition to the ranks of literary fiction that find humour, and sometimes poetry, in urban deprivation

Lucy Popescu, Independent

Unusual on several levels... The fluency and increasingly morose edginess are brilliantly conveyed by David Colmer, the book's translator... Outrageousness yields to eloquence in [this] darkly intelligent novel

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

The Author

Born in Belgium in 1972, Dimitri Verhulst is the author of a collection of short stories, a volume of poetry and several novels, including Problemski Hotel (Marion Boyars) which was translated into English in 2003. All his books are widely translated in Europe and receive a lot of critical praise

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The Translator

David Colmer has translated more than twenty books, including novels, poetry and children’s fiction, by authors including Hugo Claus, Adriaan van Dis, Anna Enquist and Arthur Japin. He is a recipient of the PEN translation prize and is the four-time winner of David Reid Poetry Translation Prize. In 2010 his translation of Gerbrand Bakker’s Boven is het stil (The Twin) won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2012 he was awarded the Dutch Foundation for Literature prize for lifetime achievement in translation.

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