Nominated by:

Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Switzerland

Publisher of nominated edition:

Peirene Press, UK

The Man I Became

Peter Verhelst      

Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

2018 Longlist

An impressively entertaining tale about the frailty of our civilization by the leading Flemish writer Peter Verhelst, now for the first time in English.

Warning: this story is narrated by a gorilla. He is plucked from the jungle. He learns to chat and passes the ultimate test: a cocktail party. Eventually he is moved to an amusement park, where he acts in a show about the history of civilization. But as the gorilla becomes increasingly aware of human weaknesses, he must choose between his instincts and his training, between principles and self-preservation.

Why Peirene chose to publish this book:

This is Peirene’s first book narrated by an ape. Animal fables are usually not my thing. It needed Belgian deadpan humour to convince me otherwise. Mixing Huxley’s Brave New World with Orwell’s Animal Farm, the fast-paced plot leaves behind images that play in your mind long after you have closed the book.

About the author & translator

Peter Verhelst, born in 1962, is a Belgian Flemish novelist, poet and playwright. He has written more than 20 books. His work has been praised for its powerful images, the sensuality and richness of its language and the author’s unbridled imagination. His breakthrough came in 1999 with the novel Tonguecat, which won the Golden Owl Literature Prize and the Flemish State Prize for Literature. The Man I Became is his eleventh novel.

David Colmer has translated more than 50 books from the Dutch: novels, children’s literature, and poetry. He has won a number of translation prizes, including the 2009 Biennial NSW Premier and PEN Translation Prize for his body of work. In 2010 his translation of Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and in 2013 he won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of Bakker’s The Detour.

(from publisher)

Librarian’s comments:

The impressively entertaining tale about the frailty of human civilisation by the leading Flemish writer Peter Verhelst, now for the first time in English. The Man I Became is the tale of a gorilla educated in the ways of civilised society, told as a first-person-narrative and playing with the troubling confusion between animal and human. Engaging and deeply disconcerting.

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