from Summer in Termuren

Context N°20

by Louis Paul Boon

Yes, you’ve got to the point in your ondine-and-oscarke novel—that endless and endlessly accursed novel—where a new hero has appeared in its pages. A strange hero. A little fellow with large bewildered eyes, and a rather weak, rather melancholy mouth. A mouth that will gradually change over the years . . . that will become a little more sensuous, but also bitter. And eyes that will become duller, with bags under them, as if they were retreating into a fortress. But you’re getting bags under your eyes! little louis boone’s wife would say later—much later, when this book about ondine and oscarke comes to an end . . . if it ever comes to an end. And little louis boone will nod his head in agreement and say that she’s right, as an idiot usually does: nodding his head in agreement and saying that everyone is right: you’re right! Yes, little louis boone appears in these pages for the first time. And he looks at ondine and oscarke, and he looks at you, and he looks at the whole wide world with his large, bewildered eyes. I can still see it as if it happened yesterday, says ondine . . . the war was on and little louis boone was playing there, opposite my door, opposite the door of tinne from the shop, and the germans with their spiked helmets were herding, into the police station, the people who’d been drafted. Little louis boone was standing there looking with his bewildered eyes. And suddenly he was knocked over, 2 times, first by a draftee with a battered cap, who was running away, then by a german with a spiked helmet who got down on one knee and started shooting. Bang. And little louis boone heard that bang and started running too, as children do: they do something and they don’t know why. So I called out: watch out, little louis boone! And right next to him the man with the battered cap fell down outside the door of tinne from the shop. And a little puff of dust came out of the coat of the man with the cap. A tiny puff of dust, nothing at all, like someone had thrown a pebble at him. And the man with the cap lay down, and doctor goethals came, and the priest too. The inevitable doctor and the inevitable priest, the inevitable last people a man sees. No, the last one was tinne who had to scrub her pavement clean afterwards, since blood stains are so hard to get out. So little louis boone makes his appearance in your book as a little bewildered person. He plays with little polpoets and the even littler tippetotje . . . that is to say, he stands watching their games . . . he watches their games and asks: did you see it? It was a little puff of dust, that’s all. But little polpoets didn’t see. There are children who see everything, and children who see nothing. There are children with big, bewildered eyes . . . and there are children who from birth smile and bare 2 bad teeth . . . bad teeth that will be replaced by gold. Little louis boone tells everyone in the street what he’s seen, but no one’s interested. Everyone sees things, they say. Everyone sees something different. But despite this, little louis boone tells everyone everything he sees: it’s his vocation, telling them what he’s seen. And perhaps it’s the vocation of the other people not to listen to what little louis boone tells them. Over the years his mouth becomes a little bitter, and his eyes a little dull: bags form beneath them. He’s told them almost everything that he’s ever heard or seen. He’s made a lot of enemies and very few friends. Sometimes he says to his wife: people who don’t see much are lucky. Sometimes he also says: people who can hold their tongues about all they’ve heard and seen are lucky too. He sits there and sometimes feels the bags under his eyes, and wonders whether all the things he’s seen and still hasn’t dared talk about aren’t what’s hidden behind them. So little louis boone, this new character, will come and play a part in your book. Ondine will make fun of him. Sometimes she looks at him and says to his mother: he always looks so sad, I think he’s got worms!

Worms, oh dear . . . and big, bewildered eyes: it’s little louis boone.

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