Tom Lanoye

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Tom Lanoye
Tom Lanoye Zuivering 004.jpg
Tom Lanoye (c) Arthur Los
Tom Emiel Gerardine Aloïs Lanoye

(1958-08-27) 27 August 1958 (age 63)
Occupationnovelist, poet

Tom Lanoye (his name is pronounced the French way: /lanwa/) was born 27 August 1958 in the Belgian city Sint Niklaas. He is a novelist, poet, columnist, screenwriter 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.


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 and Sociology at Ghent University. At that time he was also an active member of the free-thinking Taalminnend Studenten Genootschap (language-loving student society) with the name 't Zal Wel Gaan. He graduated with a thesis entitled 'The Poetry of Hans Warren'. Tom Lanoye self-published his first work. In his own words, 'Just like all the punk bands did in those days: out of dissatisfaction with the existing structures, and to learn the trade from the inside out'.

Lanoye is not only a writer, but also an entrepreneur. His company is called L.A.N.O.Y.E. nv. In 2000, Lanoye registered as an independent candidate for Agalev, to contribute to the fight against the extreme right party Vlaams Blok.

Lanoye lives and works in Antwerp and Cape Town (South Africa). His literary work has been published and/or performed in over fifteen 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'. Lanoye also wrote polemical articles for the periodicals De Zwijger, Propria Cures, Humo, and 'T Zwarte Gat — a student magazine of which he was the editor in chief, and which only published four issues.

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 more well-known. 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 'Eén', the Flemish public broadcaster's main channel, in autumn 2011.

Lanoye has 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). It has been performed in German at the Salzburg Festival. Several of his works have been played at great festivals in Avignon, Amsterdam, Vienna, and the Ruhr.

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 LLC 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, Aeschylus, 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 Festival d'Avignon. In 2011, this festival invited the duo Cassiers-Lanoye again. Their historical play about Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais was performed five times at the prestigious Cour d'Honneur of the Palais des Papes with a total of 10,000 spectators. In 2014, Lanoye collaborated with Cassiers again on the adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, with the actrice Abke Haring in the notable lead role.

In 2007 Lanoye was nominated for The Golden Owl and the Libris Prize for his novel Het derde huwelijk. In the same year he won the Gouden Ganzenveer for his entire collection of work, 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 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, and will be published in the United Kingdom in 2016. The film rights have been sold to Caviar Film Productions. 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 2012, Les Boîtes en carton was published. Thirty years after The Sorrow of Belgium (1983) by Hugo Claus, a Flemish novel is once again in the top ten of francophone Belgium literature.

In the vote on the most popular classic in Flemish literature, Tom Lanoye's novel Sprakeloos (2009) came in third, after Louis Paul Boon's De 'Kapellekensbaan (1953 ) and the 13th-century epic poem Reynard.

In 2013, Lanoye (along 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 Semprún and Harry Mulisch.

4 September 2013 his novel Gelukkige Slaven (Fortunate Slaves) was published. The novel was on all the bestsellers lists and has sold 50,000 copies. In 2014, Fortunate Slaves was shortlisted for the AKO Literature Prize and the Libris Literature Award. In October 2013 the French translation of Heldere Hemel (2012), Tombé du Ciel is published. Publisher and translator are Éditions de la Différence (Paris) and Alain van Crugten. On 10 January 2014 translator Alain van Crugten wins the Les Phares du Nord prize for his translations of Lanoyes work, especially La Langue de ma Mère (Sprakeloos). Also, Het Goddelijke Monster, a series broadcast on Eén, and based on Lanoye's De Monstertrilogie, received a double nomination for the Golden Panda Awards at the Sichuan TV Festival. The director of the series, Hans Herbots wins the Golden Panda for Best Director.


Lanoye's work in theatre consists of over a two dozen plays. Usually, they are typical ensemble plays for over six, and in some cases over fifteen actors. Some are original works, such as the absurd De Jossen, in which all the characters are named 'Jos'. Other works are adaptations like De Russen, which is a six-hour Chekhov-adaptation that Lanoye wrote at the request of Ivo van Hove (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) and in which he weaves together two of Chekhov's juvenilia (Ivanov and Platonov) and includes many more new scenes. In the spring of 2015, Lanoye brings a theatre trilogy to the stage. First, an adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear, for Toneelgroep Amsterdam and director Eric de Vroedt: Koningin Lear (Queen Lear), with the Flemish Frieda Pittoors in the lead. He has also written an original musical theatre script in the style of Bertolt Brecht for director and lead actor Josse de Pauw— a co-production of KVS (Brussels), NTGent, Théâtre National (Bruxelles) en the Flat Earth Society (Gent) of composer Peter Vermeersch. Lastly, a new monologue for actrice Viviane De Muynck, GAZ. Pleidooi van een gedoemde moeder, for Theater Malperthuis (Tielt), directed by Piet Arfeuille. This last performance opens the second year of Gone West, which is the name of the four-year official commemoration of the First World War in Flanders. The premiere will be exactly one hundred years to the day since the German army decided in Tielt to launch the first military gas attack in the history of mankind. In Lanoye's play, the mother of a contemporary terrorist grieves the death of her son, without condoning his gruesome attack—a gas attack in a subway car, which cost hundreds of civilian lives, most of which were children. Lanoye performs in theatres in the Netherlands and Belgium with his texts. He recites his own works. The performance cannot be seen as a reading, but rather as a literary one-man show.

  • 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 the South African poet Antjie Krog
  • Woest (2008), 50 years of Lanoye
  • Sprakeloos (2011-2012). During the Dutch Book Week of 2012, this one-man show was performed at a sold-out Carré in Amsterdam. In the autumn of 2012, Sprakeloos, which had been partially translated to French, was performed in the Théâtre National in Brussels, and sold out five times. This has been Tom Lanoye's breakthrough in French-speaking Belgium.
  • Solo Ten Oorlog (2017-2018)
  • Jubilee Lanoye & guest act Bloednoot (2018-2019)


  • 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 12 hours. Lanoye wrote this together with Luk Perceval, after The War of the Roses by Shakespeare. In Germany it was performed under the title Schlachten!)
  • 1999 – Zwarte Tranen (novel)
  • 2001 – Tekst & uitleg/Woorden met vleugels (criticism)
  • 2001 – Mamma Medea (play, after Euripides and Apollonius 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); includes the poems and speeches he wrote as the first City poet of Antwerp (2003-2004)
  • 2005 – De meeste gedichten (poetry)
  • 2005 – Fort Europa (play)
  • 2006 – Mijn Vriend Laarmans door Tom Lanoye/ Mijn vriend Boorman door Arnon Grunberg (two letters)
  • 2006 – Het derde huwelijk (novel)
  • 2006 – Mefisto for ever (play, freely adapted from the Klaus Mann's novel Mephisto)
  • 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)
  • 2013 - Gelukkige Slaven (novel)
  • 2014 - Hamlet vs Hamlet (play, based on Shakespeare)
  • 2015 – Koningin Lear (play, based on Shakespeare)
  • 2015 – Revue Ravage. Death of a politician (play)
  • 2015 – Gaz. Pleidooi van een gedoemde moeder (novella/monologue)
  • 2016 – Revue Lanoye. Filippica(criticism)
  • 2017 – Zuivering (novel)
  • 2017 – De felomstreden kroon en deerniswekkende dood van koning Edward II & zijn favoriet jonkheer Gaveston, onder wiens betovering hij zich afkeerde van zijn koningin en kroonprins, tot steeds grotere woede van de verzamelde adel en het voor de rest onwetende gewone volk (Christopher Marlowe)
  • 2018 – Lanoye 60. Groepsportret met brilletje (scrapbook)

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
  • 2004 – The Inktaap Award for Boze tongen
  • 2007 – The Gouden Ganzenveer for his oeuvre
  • 2007 – Honorary Doctorate from the University of Antwerp
  • 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
  • 2013 – the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his oeuvre
  • 2016 – Cutting Edge Award for Revue ravage. Dood van een politicus
  • 2018 – Groenman-taalprijs

Other Awards for Lanoye's work[edit]

A. Actors

1998 – De Arlecchino (Best Supporting Actor) for his portrayal of King Edwaar in Ten Oorlog (Blauwe Maandag Compagnie)

2007 – De Louis d’Or (Best Actor in a Leading Role), for his portrayal Kurt Köpler in Mefisto for ever (Toneelhuis)

2011 – Prix de la Critique Francophone (meilleure Comédienne), for her portrayal of Médée in Mamma Medea (Théâtre Le Rideau)

2012 – De Colombina (Best Supporting Actress), for her portrayal of Zinaida Lebedjeva in De Russen! (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)

2014 – De Theo d’Or (Best Supporting Actress), for her portrayal of Hamlet in Hamlet versus Hamlet (Toneelhuis/Toneelgroep Amsterdam)

B. Translators

2014 – De Prix des Phares du Nord (Best Translation of a Dutch work) for La Langue de ma mere (Sprakeloos) (Editions de la Différence)

2014 – De Suid-Afrikaanse Akademieprijs vir vertaalde werk voor Sprakeloos (Sprakeloos) (Protea Boekhuis)


External links[edit]