Thomas Gunzig: The Belgian Writer Who Created Grumpy Gods and Absurd Anti-Heroes

I am uncertain of how I conceived the notion of transforming the deities into disgruntled, unshaven elderly gentlemen donning greasy shorts; nevertheless, this audacious endeavor was undertaken by none other than Thomas Gunzig, the esteemed Belgian author and screenwriter of the renowned film ‘The New Testament.’

Unconventional in nature, reveling in whimsical ideas, and yearning for that which is rebellious and rife with contradictions—such impressions can be effortlessly gleaned without delving into the entirety of his literary repertoire.

On one occasion, an inquisitive soul probed him concerning his ideal vacation destination, to which he expressed an ardent desire to be ensconced within the tropical fringes of Brittany, nestled in the Caribbean, where tempestuous weather reigns supreme, turquoise seas stretch to the horizon, exotic delicacies tantalize the palate, and, above all, a dearth of humanity prevails. Concurrently, he harbors a longing for tranquility, yearning for the presence of a caretaker who would be readily available to tend to his children’s whimsical desires as they engage in their playful endeavors. ‘Ultimately, I sought a locale that would be in close proximity yet offer an illusion of remoteness.’

Throughout the past summer, whether traversing the boulevards or not, Thomas consistently roused himself from slumber prior to partaking in his morning repast, commencing each day by languishing in bed, penning a few eloquent lines. This ritual persisted until the eleventh hour, leaving the remainder of his time imbued with a profound sense of achievement. In the afternoon hours, he would elect to partake in a sport, ‘aspiring to derive elation from physically arduous and demanding endeavors,’ subsequently earning acclaim as a ‘scribe of remarkable talent and a consummate athlete.’

For him, pugilistic disciplines provide the optimal outlet when the quill becomes ensnared in a mire of stagnation. ‘I have always been drawn to sports that inflict a measure of pain upon me. Could this be an expression of my somber relationship with violence? I engage in a myriad of pugilistic arts, such as boxing, karate (where I possess a brown belt), and presently, my focus lies primarily on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I am immensely enamored with it, for it transcends mere pugilism, instead embracing physicality and adhering to the principles of equilibrium and utmost efficiency. Strangely enough, it engenders a meditative effect—one cannot discern the company of negative thoughts when concentration is paramount, lest one be swiftly overwhelmed by the corporeal prowess of one’s opponent.’

Thomas, now aged over fifty, evidently contemplates matters of well-being with increasing frequency. During periods of proximal sojourn, he meanders aimlessly through the streets of Brussels. ‘This is the place of my birth, my upbringing, and my abode; perchance, it may also be the locale of my final days.’

At one juncture, he composed a melodious opus titled “Il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille” for a Flemish chanteuse named An Pierlé. The lyrics of this mellifluous creation astutely encapsulate his sentiments toward his beloved metropolis: ‘I remain uncertain of my affection for my city, yet familiarity has engendered an unbreakable bond. It is an exquisite, vibrant realm brimming with an insatiable lust for life and indulgence.’ ‘The cost of living here is not exorbitant, and the denizens extend warm and gracious hospitality. One can relish extraordinary concerts for naught, witness captivating performances at theaters, and frequent authentic establishments replete with delectable fare. It stands as a city teeming with vitality—an intersection where the Flemish and Walloon-speaking communities converge, fostering mutual appreciation and coexistence. I hold a special fondness for the Saint-Giles district, for it is there that I set my quill in motion subsequent to escorting my children to their educational institutions. The ambiance is ceaselessly bustling—a constant ebb and flow of individuals—and I find myself akin to an observer amidst a morning coffee ritual, intently scrutinizing my city whilst toiling away.’

In addition to his humor, I endeavor to infuse my compositions with an emotive quality.

‘Morning Coffee’ serves as a radio program in which Thomas Ganziger partakes. Locally, he assumes the role of a culturally active luminary across diverse domains; however, he approaches his craft with unwavering dedication, refusing to be swayed by the passage of time. He incessantly strives to unearth the poignant undercurrents within his literary works, screenplays, and radio columns. ‘For instance, when summoned to craft humorous anecdotes during radio broadcasts, I strive to imbue these narratives with emotional undertones—lighthearted yet resonant.’ ‘Authors who remain etched in memory (and I do not insinate that I belong to their esteemed ranks) possess the ability to evoke a multitude of emotions within their readership. It is this profound connection that I strive to establish, an interplay between humor and sentimentality that renders the human experience in all its complexity.’

Thomas Gunzig, with his idiosyncrasies, literary prowess, and penchant for sports, continues to carve a unique path in the realm of Belgian literature and beyond. His works, marked by their whimsical nature and emotional depth, offer a glimpse into the mind of a multifaceted writer who thrives on contradictions and challenges conventional norms.

Writing a story from scratch is a manifestation of empathy

  In 2022 Thomas Gonziger brought a new novel “Le Sang des bêtes”. This book was inspired by his idea that everything has a label, “We put everyone in a certain place based on the label.” box, and I wanted to add an extra dimension of measurement: How would you treat someone who is human but not human? I thought of the Cow Girl. Social networks and algorithms want to know exactly what you like in order to provide targeted advertising, which also leads to our tendency to work exactly the way the algorithms want us to work, i.e. live digitally. But humans are elusive, constantly evolving, and not fixed in one category or one sure way of doing things. way or way of being. I wanted to write a book that would reconcile the subtle differences between people, because there are only subtle differences between us.”
  These differences manifest themselves primarily in external elements, such as body shape, race, age, “I wanted to Write about fitness, about how to change your body. When I was a little boy I felt small and skinny and I loved running in the woods and wanted to change that through exercise. I also The idea of ​​getting closer to the Jewish community. Historically, Jews have always been caricatured as short, weak, and scrawny. Finally, I also wanted to write a novel about an elderly couple. For a couple who love each other deeply and truly. For couples, what will their desire for each other be like in 20, 30 years? When you get married before 25, you don’t think about that. But when you live with this person, and This person gives birth to the child, knows him/her inside and out, and that person becomes part of your family, just like your mother or your sister. You wouldn’t want to sleep with your sister or your mother, but the rules of society are, A couple with a good relationship, even after living together for 20 years, should still have the same desire for each other and still want to have sex, otherwise it means that he/she is not in good health. I want to solve this problem.”

  “I wanted to write a novel that included all these characters, who were just like everyone else, not framed characters.”
  He was not interested in contemporary forms of autobiographical novels, self-narrations, and the like. “Sartre’s autobiographical novel is a really great description of his childhood and the way he came to know literature, but in my opinion it skips over the greatest difficulty of literary creation, which is formulating a story from scratch and trying to write it “Writing about experiences in someone’s life is very different from writing a novel, and I think the challenge for authors is to try to recreate emotions that we don’t necessarily experience in our lives, which is a sign of empathy.” He sees no challenge in realism
  . , so he tried his best to use his imagination in various genres. One day, while having lunch with director Harry Craven, who he had collaborated with before, an idea came up – “A woman is going to give birth to an invisible baby”, which made Harry immediately excited. Harry also longed to photograph something special and intimate, something to do with emotion, feeling… rather than the very real, like a car passing a house on a rainy street.
  The pair do not attempt to answer all narrative or realistic questions, but instead try to provide the audience with an emotional, sensory experience. “It might disturb people who expect something very rigid, but we approached ‘invisibility’ in a rather original way, from the perspective of the poetic potential of invisibility.” When not creating, Thomas studies at the National Academy of Arts in La Cambrai, Belgium
  . He teaches literature at La Cambre and story writing at the Saint-Luc School of Arts in Brussels. In class, he never stopped expressing his passion for imagination and his belief in novels as a place of freedom.
  ”I try to make the course interesting, I can’t stand my students finding it boring. I tell a lot of anecdotes about writers in class (probably too many and not academic at all, but I like it), and I also have a lot of interest in pure Increasingly allergic to the test of knowledge feedback: in my exams, students have all they need: notes, phone calls, GPT (deep learning models), etc. I always ask them to invent something new, ask them to come up with a relevant questions and answers. I encourage them to be creative rather than memorize a large amount of knowledge in a given time (and then quickly forget it).”
  His requirements for material life are relatively simple. Steak on the grill, French fries cooked in butter, and a glass of red wine can make him happy. But since writing “Animal Blood”, it has also become a very occasional pleasure. Out of respect for animals, the earth and his own health, and most importantly, the concern for animal welfare mentioned in the novel, he Stop eating red meat like you used to.
  The book continues its delightful sense of humor, with each short story telling the story of a friendly and familiar animal that meets a disastrous fate. He infuses his writing with a dark, often cynical humor that is never short of fun.
  ”I recognized that life was already very difficult, so I preferred telling stories rather than putting pressure on readers. It was actually a change for me. I wasn’t very good at writing when I first started, but as I got older As I grew up and had kids, that gradually changed. I wanted something more warm and tender, even if we sometimes stuck in somewhat dark themes. I didn’t want my book to give readers a hard feel. People read it The only thing you remember about your book years later is not the script or the names of the characters, but the emotions they experienced in the work, so I try to bring emotion to my readers, make them cry, make them laugh.”

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