Annelies Verbeke

© Liesbeth Kuipers
Frankfurter Buchmesse
Guest of Honour 2016

Annelies Verbeke

1976, Dendermonde
Writer. Theatre writer. Looks for the absurdity in the world.

Annelies Verbeke studied Germanic Language and Literature in Ghent, as well as Screenwriting. In 2003, she made her debut with the novel Slaap! (Sleep!), a huge success that was published in over 20 countries and won the Flemish debut prize. The novels that followed, Reus (Giant, 2006), Vissen redden (Saving Fish, 2009) en Dertig dagen (Thirty Days, 2015), also met with considerable praise. Verbeke also writes columns for the Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad. In 2010, she made her theatre debut, writing the text for Rail Gourmet for the theatre group Wunderbaum.
Verbeke has emerged as a tremendous advocate for the short story. Her short stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work sets itself apart in the lighthearted tone of her narrative.


  Flemish Literature Fund   Translations     De Geus   Mare Verlag

Recently translated into German

Saving Fish
Mare, 2011
Translated by Andreas Gressmann
Original title: Vissen redden (De Geus, 2009)

Annelies Verbeke’s new novel, Vissen redden (Saving Fish), is imbued with the pain of love lost. After writer Monique Champagne is left by her boyfriend Thomas, she turns away from literature, finding a new purpose in life, denouncing the dramatic decline of the world’s fish stocks. When asked to by an organisation to do a literary interlude at international conferences on fishing, she travels to Tallinn, and from there to Athens and Lisbon, on to Istanbul – although her performance there is cancelled – and to inhospitable Vladivostok.

In Tallinn, she meets an Austrian, who gives her the manuscript of his new novel to read. Knowing that if it is an autobiography, she should be careful of what he is hiding, but adrift in her pain, she spends a drunken night with him. Equally recklessly, she pretends to be someone else when a strange woman mistakes her for a long lost friend, and spends several days with her. In Vladivostok, she is convinced that her deepest desires can be fulfilled by a man she meets at the hotel, until it turns out he is active in illegal fishing. On the way home, she completely loses control of herself at the airport. She has lost the will to live, but, in a beautiful final scene, she survives her attempt at suicide through drowning. Monique’s preoccupation with fish and her obsession to save them arises from her awareness that man is the evolutionary descendant of fish, which came ashore 375 million years ago. Emotionally powerless and defeated, searching for her identity and meaning in her life, Monique attempts, equally foolishly and riskily, to escape her inner pain and grief. Through saving fish, she tries to save humanity, and eventually herself. Thus, the fact that she is washed ashore after she has tried to drown herself takes on a deep symbolic meaning.
A very exciting novel in which the author amazes with unexpected turns, fast changes in tone and clever formulations. Since Sleep! Verbeke has undergone an impressive stylistic evolution. (…) Her best yet.

De Standaard

A love story of staggering proportions.

NRC Handelsblad

Weeping without shedding a tear – due to a novel which has much to laugh about. That’s irresistible.

De Volkskrant