Ward (Pseudonym of Reimond Karel Maria de Belser) Ruyslinck Peter Bruning - Essay

Peter Bruning

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Flemish writers, [Ruyslinck says,] should be concerned with European problems transcending Flemish parochialism. He has taken his own advice, and in scores of novels and short stories he uses a leitmotiv that is the antithesis of that Flemish gusto: the individual pitted against society and an unjust God. (p. 303)

The Depraved Sleepers (De ontaarde slapers, 1957) and Golden Ophelia (1966) … are permeated with postwar disenchantment: man is grotesquely ugly. He dreads aging, which ends in decay and death. Perceiving his animal nature as degrading, he fails in his love relationships. A perennial underdog, he loses his battle against a dehumanized society. A touch of black humor relieves the gloom: The protagonist in The Depraved Sleepers poses as a dignified mourner in a funeral procession to get a free ride. Behind black humor lurks black absurdity in Golden Ophelia when the hapless hero must properly petition to commit legal suicide. By distorting reality here to intensify his message, Ruyslinck has, unfortunately, weakened Golden Ophelia artistically.

On the whole, Ruyslinck's approach to his craft is conservative. Unlike his more experimental contemporaries, he continues a Flemish narrative tradition. A master of nuance, he manipulates language with virtuosity and relishes inventing new words. (pp. 303-04)

Peter Bruning, "World Literature in Review: 'The Depraved Sleepers' & 'Golden Ophelia'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1979 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 53, No. 2, Spring, 1979, pp. 303-04.