J. M. H. Berckmans (1953– 2008)

J. M. H. Berckmans

Belgian writer J. M. H. Berckmans (19532008) died yesterday. Alternative Flanders mourns.

He was Flanders’ celebrated cult author and the darling bipolar genius of the alternative press (De Morgen and Humo); where he played his role of tortured artist sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly.

To me, J. M. H. Berckmans is the literary equivalent of photographer Stephan Vanfleteren[1]. Vanfleteren photographs real life outcasts and misfits of the kind featured in the novels of Berckmans.

Berckmans debuted with Walter Soethoudt in 1977.

Soethoudt was the first Flemish printer to translate and publish Sade, years before Bert Bakker did the same in The Netherlands. He was printer-for-hire with an interesting bibliography: partly risqué[2] and sensational[3][4], partly literary fiction by authors such as Georges Adé, Heere Heeresma, René Gysen, Gust Gils, Freddy de Vree, Claude Krijgelmans, Patrick Conrad, Louis Willems and Jef Geeraerts. These authors also often translated for Soethoudt and published more often than not under pseudonyms for his imprints.

Uitgevers komen in de hemel

Soethoudt was no Eric Losfeld, but Belgian’s nearest equivalent. Ah, the glorious days of literary mystifications! Read all about them in Soethoudt’s 2008 autobiography titled Uitgevers komen in de hemel [5], edited by Harold Polis, Berckmans’s last publisher.

Adieu Berckmans. I’m sort of sorry I missed your show with Kris Verdonck in March of 2006 at ScheldApen (see news article above), but I’m sure much fun was had by all.

2 thoughts on “J. M. H. Berckmans (1953– 2008)

  1. Vedran

    Have you seen de “Weerwolven” documentary about JMB? I saw it the first time it was aired. I was doing my homework and from the moment I heard his voice and the words he uttered. I dropped my pen and was enslaved by my television. I haven’t read any of his books. But for those thirty minutes I saw and listened to him, I admire him. I had the feeling I really understood him, not only by his words but also by his appearance and his manner.

  2. jahsonic

    Missed it then and this evening too. An enigmatic figure, there has been more focus on his life than his work. There is not much substance (or an eternal recurrence of the same) to his work, but the poetics of his prose is good. And it has been a mixed-feelings-pleasure listening to him on YouTube on various places the previous days.

Comments are closed.