Tom Lanoye

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Tom Lanoye
Tom Lanoye
Tom Lanoye (2008)
Born (1958-08-27) 27 August 1958 (age 56)
Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Occupation novelist, poet

Tom Lanoye (born 27 August 1958) lives in Antwerp (Belgium) and Cape Town (South Africa). He is a novelist, poet, columnist, scenarist and playwright. He is one of the most widely read and honoured authors in his language area (the Netherlands and Flanders), and makes regular appearances at all the major European theatre festivals. His name is pronounced in the French way: /lanwa/.


Lanoye was the youngest son of a butcher. He attended the Sint-Jozef-Klein-Seminarie College in Sint-Niklaas. At the time it was a single-sex boys’ school. He studied Germanic Philology at Ghent University. At that time has was also an active member of the free-thinking Taalminnend Studentengenootschap (language-loving student society) with the name ‘t Zal Wel Gaan. He graduated with a thesis entitled The Poetry of Hans Warren.

In 1982 Lanoye published and edited the magazine ‘t Zwarte Gat, only four issues of which appeared. In the 2000 Antwerp local elections, Lanoye was on the list of candidates for Agalev, the green party, with the aim of reinforcing the struggle against the Vlaams Blok, an extreme right-wing party. In 2003 Lanoye became Antwerp’s first ‘city poet’, in which post he wrote 13 poems in 2 years; each word he wrote was thus worth its weight in gold.

Lanoye is not only a writer, but also an entrepreneur, and his company is called L.A.N.O.Y.E. nv. He calls himself an atheist.[1]

He makes frequent radio and TV appearances, not only in Belgium, but also in the Netherlands. He also performs in theatres. His harsh and pointed pronouncements often put him in the public spotlight. Lanoye lives in Antwerp and Cape Town (South Africa). His literary work has been published and/or performed in more than ten languages.

Literary Work[edit]

From 1981 to 1982 Tom Lanoye formed a duo with James Bordello (real name Peter Roose) who performed as ‘the Two Last Great Poets of Promise From Just Before The Third World War’. They published their booklets themselves and performed in student cafés in Ghent. A year later they took part in the ‘Night of Poetry’ in Utrecht. Lanoye also wrote polemical articles for the periodicals De Zwijger, Propria Cures and Humo.

1985 saw the publication of his prose debut, the semi-autobiographical novel Een slagerszoon met een brilletje (A Butcher’s Son with Spectacles). After a television appearance on a chat-show hosted by Sonja Barend that same year, he became a ‘famous Fleming’. His other books include Alles moet weg (It All Has To Go) (1988), the melancholy novel Kartonnen dozen (Cardboard Boxes) (1991) and the trilogy comprising Het Goddelijke Monster (The Divine Monster), Zwarte tranen (Black Tears) and Boze tongen (Spiteful Tongues) which describes the disintegration of Belgium. A ten-part television series based on this trilogy was broadcast on ‘één’, the Flemish public broadcaster’s main channel, in autumn 2011.

Lanoye made an impression as a contemporary dramatist abroad with his 12-hour verse adaptation of eight of Shakespeare’s history plays entitled Ten Oorlog (To War) (1997).

Lanoye started out as an enfant terrible, but has become an established writer who devotes himself to all forms of text and writing, for books, newspapers, periodicals and printed matter as well as for plays, cabaret and vocal performances, in any form whatsoever and in the broadest sense of the word’ (a quote from the articles of association of his company, the naamloze vennootschap L.A.N.O.Y.E., set up in 1992).

In theatres he regularly performs literary shows, more like theatrical monologues than lectures. He has also written a bestseller called Het derde huwelijk (The Third Marriage), as well as plays that have on more than one occasion been staged abroad, including Fort Europa, Mamma Medea (a free adaptation of Euripides), Mefisto for ever (a free adaptation of Klaus Mann) and Atropa. De wraak van de vrede (Atropa. The Vengeance of Peace) (a free adaptation of Euripides, Aischylos, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Curzio Malaparte). The last two plays are the first and last parts of De triptiek van de macht (The Triptych of Power) directed by Guy Cassiers, and were both performed at the Avignon Festival.

In 2007 Lanoye was nominated for The Golden Owl and the Libris Literature Prize for his novel Het derde huwelijk. In the same year he won the Golden Goosefeather Prize in the Netherlands for his work as a whole, and received an honorary doctorate from Antwerp University.

The end of 2009 saw publication of his novel Sprakeloos (Speechless), which is about the death of his mother – an amateur actress who, after a stroke, lost the ability to speak. It can be seen as an unexpected sequel, eighteen years later, to the equally autobiographical Kartonnen dozen. In 2010 Sprakeloos was on the shortlists for the Golden Owl, the Libris Literature Prize and the AKO Literature Prize, and it won the Golden Owl Public Prize. According to figures published by, this book made Tom Lanoye the highest-selling author in the Low Countries. In 2011 it was nominated once again, this time for the Boek-Delen Prize, which is awarded to the ‘Book Club Book of the Year’. In the same year it was awarded the Henriette Roland Holst Prize. This book was also published in France, South Africa and Denmark. In 2011, Cobra, the art and culture site run by the VRT (Flanders’ public broadcaster) selected Lanoye’s Bloed en Rozen (Blood and Roses) and De Russen! (The Russians!) among its best 11 plays of the year. He wrote them for Het Toneelhuis (Guy Cassiers/Avignon Festival) and Toneelgroep Amsterdam (Ivo van Hove/Holland Festival) respectively. Both plays were highly praised both at home and abroad: in The Financial Times, Le Monde and elsewhere. Some of Lanoye’s other plays, Mamma Medea and Atropa also receive sustained international interest and have been frequently performed in Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt and elsewhere.

In 2012, at the request of the Stichting CPNB, Tom Lanoye wrote a novella entitled Heldere hemel (Clear Sky) for the Dutch Book Week Gift. He is the fourth Belgian author of the Book Week Gift, following Hubert Lampo (1969), Marnix Gijsen (1978) and Hugo Claus (1989). It was the first time a Book Week Gift was also distributed in Flanders.

In 2012 the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature awarded its Five-Yearly Prize for Playwriting for the 2007–2011 period to Tom Lanoye for Atropa. De wraak van de vrede (2008). In autumn 2012 Lanoye was a visiting lecturer at the Sorbonne University in Paris, where he gave six lectures on Flemish and Dutch literature.

In the vote on the most popular classic in Flemish literature, his novel Sprakeloos (2009) came in third, after Louis Paul Boon’s De Kapellekensbaan (1953 ) and Van de vos Reynaerde (13th-century epic).

In 2013, Lanoye (together with Julian Barnes, Amin Maalouf et al.) was nominated for the Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature européenne for "Les Boîtes en Carton". Previous winners include Claudio Magris, Jorge Semprun and Harry Mulisch.


Lanoye presents his writings in theatres in Belgium and the Netherlands. He reads from his works, but these performances cannot be seen as a reading, rather as a one-man show like that of a cabaret artist. Here is a list of the performances he has given:

  • Jamboree (1982–1984)
  • Een slagerszoon met een brilletje (1986)
  • In de piste (1988–1989)
  • Kartonnen dozen (1992)
  • Gespleten en bescheten (1997–1999)
  • The very best of the artist formerly known as a young man (1998)
  • Ten oorlog – The solo (2000)
  • Veldslag voor een man alleen (2003–2004)
  • Geletterde Mensen (2006), with Antjie Krog
  • Woest (2008) Lanoye at 50
  • Woest (2010) (provisionally) the second farewell tour by an incorrigible literary ‘divo’. Lanoye started his performance at the Royal Flemish Theatre in March 2010 with a comment specially for the Dutch members of the audience. There had just been local elections in the Netherlands, and Almere, where the PVV won, had seen a complete turnaround. This party had more or less just one policy, on ethnic minorities. According to Lanoye, the PVV and its leader Geert Wilders were 20 years behind the times. In this regard he referred to the Vlaams Blok, which had previously won a great many votes in Flanders.
  • Bloed & Rozen (2011): Bloed & rozen was the latest joint project by Lanoye and Guy Cassiers, for Het Toneelhuis (Antwerp). In summer 2011 it was also performed on the renowned Cour d’Honneur at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, as part of the festival there.
  • De Russen (2011), by Toneelgroep Amsterdam, directed by Ivo van Hove.
  • In 2012 Lanoye performed Sprakeloos as a theatre solo. During Dutch Book Week he performed it for a full house at the Carré in Amsterdam.


  • 1980 – Maar nog zo goed als nieuw (poetry)
  • 1981 – Neon! Een elegisch rockgedicht (poetry)
  • 1982 – Gent-Wevelgem (poetry)
  • 1983 – De nagelaten gedichten (poetry)
  • 1983 – De glazen klomp (poetry)
  • 1983 – Rozegeur en Maneschijn (essays)
  • 1984 – In de piste (poetry)
  • 1984 – Bagger (poetry)
  • 1985 – Een slagerszoon met een brilletje (stories)
  • 1986 – Het cirkus van de slechte smaak (criticism)
  • 1988 – Alles moet weg (novel)
  • 1989 – Vroeger was ik beter (essays)
  • 1989 – De Canadese Muur (play, written with Herman Brusselmans)
  • 1989 – Gespleten en bescheten (criticism)
  • 1990 – Hanestaart (poetry)
  • 1991 – Kartonnen dozen (novel)
  • 1991 – Blankenberge (play)
  • 1991 – Bij Jules en Alice (play)
  • 1992 – Doen! (columns/essays)
  • 1993 – De schoonheid van een total loss (play)
  • 1993 – Celibaat (play, after Gerard Walschap)
  • 1994 – Spek en bonen (stories)
  • 1994 – Maten en gewichten (criticism)
  • 1997 – Het goddelijke monster (novel)
  • 1997 – Ten oorlog (play lasting 11 hours. Lanoye wrote this together with Luk Perceval, after Shakespeare. In Germany it was performed under the title Schlachten!) (Lucas Van den Eynde received the Arlecchino Award for the best male supporting part).
  • 1999 – Zwarte Tranen (novel, Golden Owl Public Prize)
  • 2001 – Tekst & uitleg/Woorden met vleugels (criticism)
  • 2001 – Mamma Medea (play, after Euripides and Apollonios of Rhodes)
  • 2002 – Niemands Land. Gedichten uit de Groote Oorlog, Prometheus, Amsterdam (including a free translation of Wilfred Owen’s 1917 poem Dulce et Decorum est)
  • 2002 – Boze Tongen (novel, 2003 Golden Owl Public Prize and 2005 Inktaap Award)
  • 2003 – Veldslag voor een man alleen (play)
  • 2004 – Diplodocus Deks (play)
  • 2004 – De Jossen (play)
  • 2004 – Overkant (poetry)
  • 2004 – Het vroegste vitriool (criticism)
  • 2004 – Vitriool voor gevorderden (criticism)
  • 2005 – Stadsgedichten (poetry)
  • 2005 – De meeste gedichten (poetry)
  • 2005 – Fort Europa (play)
  • 2006 – Het derde huwelijk (novel)
  • 2006 – Mefisto for ever (play, freely adapted from the Klaus Mann’s novel Mephisto) (the leading actor, Dirk Roofthooft, won the Louis d'Or for his performance)
  • 2007 – Schermutseling (criticism)
  • 2008 – Atropa. De wraak van de vrede (play, freely adapted from Euripides, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Curzio Malaparte)
  • 2008 – Woest (solo performance)
  • 2008 – Alles eender (ganzenpas) (play)
  • 2009 – Sprakeloos (novel)
  • 2011 – Bloed en Rozen (play)
  • 2011 – De Russen! Ivanov meets Platonov (play, freely adapted from Anton Chekhov)
  • 2012 – Heldere hemel (based on the aircraft accident near Kortrijk)
  • 2014 - Hamlet vs Hamlet

Main awards[edit]

  • 1992 – Humo's Golden Bookmark for Kartonnen dozen
  • 1994 – Antwerp Province Theatre Prize for Blankenberge
  • 1995 – Ark Prize of the Free Word for Maten en gewichten
  • 1998 – Océ Podium Prize for Ten oorlog
  • 1998 – Proscenium Prize for Ten oorlog
  • 1999 – Thalia Prize for Ten oorlog
  • 1998 – Humo's Golden Bookmark for Het goddelijke monster
  • 2000 – Triennial Flemish Community Dramatic Literature Prize for Ten oorlog
  • 2000 – Innovationspreis Theatertreffen Berlin for Schlachten! (Ten oorlog)
  • 2000 – The Golden Owl Public Prize for Zwarte Tranen
  • 2000 – Humo's Golden Bookmark for Zwarte Tranen
  • 2003 – The Golden Owl Literature Prize for Boze Tongen
  • 2003 – The Golden Owl Public Prize for Boze Tongen
  • In 2005 Lanoye became no. 84 in the Flemish version of The Greatest Belgian.
  • 2004 – The Inktaap Award for Boze tongen
  • 2007 – The Golden Goosefeather for his oeuvre
  • 2010 – The Golden Owl Public Prize for Sprakeloos
  • 2011 – The Henriette Roland Holst Prize for Sprakeloos
  • 2012 – The Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature five-yearly playwriting prize for Atropa. De wraak van de vrede


External links[edit]