David van Reybrouck
Cultural historian, archaeologist & author
David van Reybrouck is a Belgian cultural historian, archaeologist and author. He writes historical fiction, literary non-fiction, novels, poetry, plays and academic texts. He has received several Dutch literary prizes, including AKO Literature Prize (2010) and Libris History Prize.
He was born into a family of florists, bookbinders and artists. His father, a farmer's son, spent five years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a railway engineer immediately after independence. He holds a doctorate from Leiden University.
His first book, De Plaag (in English: The Plague), was a cross between a travelogue and a literary whodunnit set in post-apartheid South Africa. It received several awards, including the prize for the best Flemish debut in 2002 and a shortlist nomination for the Gouden Uil, one of the leading literary prizes in the Low Countries. It was translated into Afrikaans, French and Hungarian. A longtime op-ed writer for the Flemish national newspaper De Morgen, Van Reybrouck has co-edited a volume on the federal future of Belgium (What Belgium Stands For: a Scenario, 2007) and a thought-provoking pamphlet, Pleidooi voor populisme (A Plea for Populism, 2008), which has stirred quite some debate. The latter won Holland’s most distinguished essay prize.
In spring 2010, his book Congo. Een geschiedenis (in English: Congo: The Epic History of a People) was published. Over the years, Van Reybrouck has travelled extensively throughout Africa. Congo. A History is as much the result of his ten journeys through the Democratic Republic of the Congo as of the months spent in libraries and archives. He has interviewed hundreds of individuals, with a particular predilection for so-called 'ordinary people', precisely because their lives and choices are so often extraordinary. The book portrays slavery and colonialism, resistance and survival. It includes archive footage, interviews and personal observations. Congo. A History is translated into English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Danish and Finnish. Not content with simply observing, Van Reybrouck has also been actively involved in organising literary workshops for Congolese playwrights in Kinshasa and Goma.