Geert Buelens wins the Boon, Flanders’ most significant literature prize

Geert Buelens neemt de Boon Literatuurprijs 2023 in ontvangst. © Bob van Mol
© Bob van Mol

From over eight hundred books submitted, the jury has named Wat we toen al wisten: De vergeten groene geschiedenis van 1972 (What We Knew Back Then: The Forgotten Green History of 1972) as winner of the 2023 Boon LiteratuurprijsGeert Buelens thus wins Flanders’ most significant literature prize.

In-depth and relevant

The jury speaks highly about Buelens’ Wat we toen al wisten. “A recurring theme in the books on climate that we read was despair. Geert Buelens transcends that attitude by writing a cultural history in which he links the personal to the scientific, the political and social debate to literature and other art, and the almost forgotten climate awareness of 1972 to our present time. The result is an in-depth, unconventional, very well-written, relevant non-fiction book.”

Cover van het boek Wat wij toen al wisten

Environmental year 1972

The environmental crisis is older than many people think, Buelens writes in his Wat we toen al wisten, and so is the scientific and political battle surrounding it. After all, last year it was exactly fifty years since the Club of Rome raised public awareness with its report Limits to Growth. The planet will be destroyed, prophets of doom cried at the time. No, soothed the believers in progress: science and technology will save us.

Buelens uses films, television series, novels, comics, news items, and official reports from the year 1972 to show what we already knew back then about crowding out the world, what we have learned from it – and what not.

Boon Literatuurprijs

The Boon, financed by the Flemish government, is an annual literature prize in two categories: fiction and non-fiction. With the prize, the government aims to increase the visibility and naturalness of literature in Flanders, give authors and illustrators the recognition they deserve, and entice people to read, borrow and buy books.