Erwin Mortier / Erwin Mortier – While the Gods Were Sleeping

Erwin Mortier – While the Gods Were Sleeping

Erwin Mortier – While the Gods Were Sleeping

Read our sample translation of While the Gods Were Sleeping

Rights sold

  •  Pushkin Press (UK)
  • Fayard (France)
  • Acantilado (Spain)
  • DuMont (Germany) 
  • Alakarga (Turkey)


About the book

Sensing death’s approach, an old woman looks back on her childhood, her loves, her marriage and the years during the First World War that she spent in France with her mother and brother. What gradually arises is an intimate panorama of Belgium. With no desire to emphasize one event more than another, she longs for an endless sentence “that absorbs everything there is, like a lady-in-waiting from the days of wigs, an armada of pearls capsizing in her locks, lifting her countless skirts as she climbs the stairs at the opera – or the rungs to the gallows.”

While the Gods Were Sleeping, Erwin Mortier’s fifth novel, takes place at the intersection of history’s great events and the little lives of humans, the meeting place between language and the world, imagination and reality, between the writing of history and narrative prose.

Mortier writes so well that you are inclined to see everything else as of secondary importance. – NRC Handelsblad

A novel without an equal … If Marcel Proust has a descendent somewhere in Flanders, he must be born in Ghent. - Knack

Very witty, and again that splendid control of language. – de Volkskrant

The idyll of the countryside is evoked in great detail. You read it breathlessly … It cannot be told in a better way, as much in this beautiful book could not have been done better. – Het Parool

An impressive novel that keeps your attention from the beginning till the end. – Trouw

A monumental and phenomenal book. While the Gods Were Sleeping will be named in the future in one breath with The Sorrow of Belgium by Hugo Claus. – De Morgen

Erwin Mortier (b. 1965) made his mark in 1999 with his debut novel Marcel, which was awarded several prizes, was nominated for the most important literary awards and has been published in several countries. His novel Godenslaap (While the Gods Were Sleeping) won him the renowned AKO Literature Prize, and has been shortlisted  for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2015. Gestameld liedboek (Stammered Songbook), received unanimous praise, and won the 2013 Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger in the category essay. Five of his major works have been published in English by Pushkin Press.

© Lieve Blancquaert

Additional book information

  • Novel
  • ISBN 9789023488323
  • Number of pages: 408
  • World rights: De Bezige Bij
  • Price: € 15,00