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Jeroen Olyslaegers: unruly activist-novelist

UAntwerp alumnus Jeroen Olyslaegers is a rebel in the Flemish literary landscape.

jeroen olyslaegers
As an activist-novelist, he both injures and heals – at times subtle and pensive, at other merciless and impetuous. In his most recent novel Wil (Will), about a collaborator in Antwerp during the Second World War, he does not hesitate to shake op the relationships, such that no one remains unequivocally good, and few are absolutely bad. He constantly invokes resonance with our current turbulent times, with our rector, Herman Van Goethem, as an important sparring partner. Our rector provided him with the inspiration for his latest book, a police report filed in August 1942, which reports on a raid of Jews in Antwerp. Van Goethem initiated Olyslaegers into the research and pointed out grey areas in the story.

Olyslaegers is pleased with his university training in linguistics and literature, which has equipped him to read texts critically, to think about the writing and to look more deeply at works. He won the Fintro Literature Prize 2017 for his novel Wil, both the jury and reader’s prize.

In addition to being a novelist, Olyslaegers is an activist-columnist who hands out soup to homeless people and organises ‘give-away sites’, while also denouncing flagrant social and political abuses through Facebook.

In 2014, Olyslaegers received the Arkprijs van het Vrije Woord (Ark Prize of Free Speech) for his social engagement. As a writer, he feels that it is his social obligation to maintain a clear presence in the social debate. In the first place, however, he remains a storyteller.

Read the full article (Dutch) in the UAntwerp Magazine | June 2017