Brakelaar Stefaan Desmet presented his new novel ‘White sadness, black sadness’ last weekend in the Provincial House in Ghent. At this performance there were speeches by first deputy Kurt Moens (N-VA) and Dirk Demuynck of Witsand Publishers.
Resistance and collaboration
Stefaan Desmet :’White sorrow, black sorrow’ tells the story of my aunt Marie’s little war. It is not a non-committal story from the past but a novel with lessons that we must never forget. After all, every now and then I draw a parallel to today with the polarization and intolerance that are observed here and there today.
The title refers to grief both in circles of the former resistance (‘white’ grief) and in circles of collaboration (‘black’ grief).
Aunt Marie has not been able to cope with the death of her brother. Robert Demets was known as an Anglophile during the Second World War and was, in a modest way, active in the resistance. He was arrested by the Germans and did not survive the war. For my Aunt Marie, it was a lifelong trauma. This is a common thread throughout the book. Also because there was far from complete certainty whether and how Robert had come to his end.
Resistance fighters such as Robert Demets have long been forgotten, except by their relatives. However, that does not apply to Leo Vindevogel, the war mayor of Ronse. Vindevogel’s execution is obviously tragic. He should not have been executed in 1945, but he deserved a clear punishment given his decidedly pro-German attitude. However, little attention has been paid to the explicit positions he himself has taken, especially in the regional press, pro Germany and pro Hitler. Yet after the war a fairly idealized myth was built about him that lives on to this day. I simply tell the family history, the section about Leo Vindevogel is mainly based on quotes.
It’s a personal story. Although partly autobiographical, it remains fiction. I supplemented the unknown elements in the story with my imagination. This is one of the reasons why the names have been slightly modified. It is therefore not a biography of a family member. An extensive justification at the back of the book indicates what is authentic and which sources I have used.”
The book is now available in bookstores. The photos are by Katleen Anrijs (a woman with a carillon past)
Stefaan Desmet previously published the collection of stories ‘Herons and other stories’ and the novel ‘De tovenaar van eight thirty’.
Stefaan Desmet has been the financial manager of the province of East Flanders since 1999. Since 2002, he has been a teacher at the East Flemish Public Administration Academy (courses on new policy and management cycle (BBC) and financial management). Between 1987 and 1999 he was municipal receiver of the Municipal Council of Brakel.