David Van Reybrouck / David Van Reybrouck – Zinc

David Van Reybrouck – Zinc

David Van Reybrouck – Zinc

Rights sold

  • Suhrkamp (Germany)
  • Actes Sud (France)


About the book

‘There sits Emil, an old man at forty-two, under a blanket, coughing. He’s had five nationalities, without even moving house.’

For more than a century, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany shared a neighbour, Neutral Moresnet, a completely forgotten mini-state that is now a part of German-speaking Belgium but from 1816 to 1919 had its own flag, its own government, its own police force (one rural constable), its own postage stamp (valid for two weeks) and its own national anthem (in Esperanto, no less). It covered an area of 3.5 square kilometres, featuring zinc, distilleries, cabarets, brothels, smugglers, philanthropists and forests.

In Zinc, his official ‘Dutch Book Week 2016’ essay, David Van Reybrouck tells the remarkable story of his forgotten country, based on the improbable fate of one of its citizens.

One of Europe's leading young intellectuals - Der Tagesspiegel

Zinc is a fascinating essay written according to the tried and tested empathetic recipe of Congo - De Standaard

In his essay David Van Reybrouck pays much attention to the tragic aspects that were attached to the special status of Moresnet. - Nederlands Dagblad

In the personal, erudite and stirring form of history writing that is his trademark, Van Reybrouck presents Emil as nothing less than a modern-day Job, a punch bag of history. - Vrij Nederland


David Van Reybrouck (b. 1971) is a journalist, a writer of literary non-fiction, a poet and a playwright. He made his debut in 2001 with the award-winning The plague. His greatest succes is Congo, a History, for which he received a slew of national and international prizes including the Libris History Prize 2010, the Jan Greshoff Prize 2010 and the AKO Literature Prize 2010. The book was a runaway succes in Germany, France and Norway and was translated into  many languages. A Plea for Populism won him the Jan Hanlo Essay Prize 2009 and the Flemish Cultural Prize for Criticism and the Essay 2009. 2013 saw the publication of Against Elections, an urgent call for the reform of democracy, which has been sold to several countries.

© Stephan Vanfleteren

Additional book information

  • Essay
  • ISBN 9789059653580
  • Number of pages: 63
  • World rights: De Bezige Bij