Tuesday 14 May 2013

Brussels learns about a new Bronte novel and sculpture - in ‘gothic’ surroundings

On 7 May members of the Brussels Brontë Group were guests at the launch of a novel about the Brontë sisters’ time in Belgium. ‘De Meester’ (‘The Master’), a new novel by Dutch author Jolien Janzing, charts Charlotte’s arrival in Brussels with her sister Emily, and her subsequent relationship – professional or otherwise - with school master Constantin Heger. 
The event was held in Brussels’ magnificent 15th century town hall. The city authorities opened up the hall’s Gothic chamber and adjoining reception area for speeches and celebratory drinks.

Jolien’s exciting book is for now only available in Dutch, but readings at the launch event included sections translated into English. Jolien was able to take the audience through events ranging from the well-documented - the Brontës’ life in Haworth and arrival in Ostend – to unfamiliar new scenes. Intriguing new passages included characters discussing King Leopold’s infidelities, and hints that Charlotte’s confession at the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudule may have been prompted by more than just loneliness.

Jolien Janzing reads passages from her novel 'The Master'
The author also read an imaginary letter from Charlotte to her ‘master’, while Lex Jansen, her publisher, read a speculative reply from Monsieur – which, if real, would have given the eldest Brontë sister good reason to believe herself his “favourite pupil.”

Jolien Janzing’s foreign rights agent Laetitia Powell told the audience that translators from several countries have expressed interest in the new novel, opening up the possibility that the book will become available to read in other languages. Powell added that at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) ‘The Master’ was selected from hundreds of applicants to be put on a shortlist of contenders to be made into a film. Powell promised to keep fans up to date with progress towards a translation or a film.

To round off the spring evening’s cultural events, sculptor Tom Frantzen presented more good news for Brontë lovers in Brussels. The Flemish artist showed his audience a wonderful small model of a windswept Emily and Charlotte. If the project is approved and funding is found, this will be installed as a life-size statue close to the Belliard steps the sisters descended 170 years ago. Frantzen’s many other works include animals at the Africa Museum, and a figure emerging from a manhole in Molenbeek to trip up a police officer – as well as the well-known Madame Chapeau and Het Zinneke in the city centre.

Joliens signs her book

Emily Waterfield

To see a trailer for Jolien's book, please click on the following link: http://www.bronteinbrussels.com/themaster/themaster.html