Fire and Air
Written by Erik Vlaminck
Translated by Paul Vincent
Publication Date February 21, 2015
Told from the points of view of a mother and daughter, Fire and Air tells the story of a Belgian and Dutch family who flee to Canada to escape the Second World War, only to have the past catch up to them.
Ten-year-old Elly Verkest is a first-generation immigrant to Canada. Her father, Gaston, is one of the many Belgians who moved to the country after the Second World War, and her mother, Mina, is from Zundert, a small town in the Netherlands. When Gaston goes on one of his trips to his hometown of Flanders, he doesn’t come back. As each struggles with the sudden disappearance of Gaston, mother and daughter grow farther apart. When she is a young adult, Elly decides to search for her father in Belgium. There, she discovers that Gaston has a secret life.
When Elly returns to Canada, she finds out she is pregnant by a man she met in Atwerp. Several years later, Elly’s daughter, Linda, develops a close relationship with her grandmother. Slowly, she discovers all of the family secrets . . .
Erik Vlaminck is an author and playwright. He gained prominence as a novelist with a six-part cycle of novels about the unusual life of ordinary people in Flanders in the twentieth century. In 2011, Fire Air was nominated for the prestigious Libris and AKO Literature Award. He lives in Belgium.
Paul Vincent taught Dutch at London University from 1967 to 1989 and since then has translated a wide variety of Dutch-language authors, including Louis Couperus, Willem Elsschot and Harry Mulisch. He lives in London, U.K.