Belgian writer Tom Naegels writes ‘Most Important Book of the Year’


Belgian writer Tom Naegels has won the first edition of the prize for the ‘Most Important Book of the Year’ (Belangrijkste Boek van het Jaar), a new prize for Flemish and Dutch non-fiction.

The book, named ‘Nieuw België: een migratiegeschiedenis’ (New Belgium: a History of Migration), was one of 400 submissions, five of which were shortlisted. Naegels was the only Belgian on the shortlist, facing off against four Dutch authors.

The prize, which is worth 15,000 euros, is awarded to a Belgian or Dutch author who has written a relevant, influential book that offers a new perspective, a must-read to understand the times we live in.

The award-winning book Nieuw België: een migratiegeschiedenis was six years in the making and covers Belgium’s migration policy from 1944 to 1978. The author plans to follow up this book with a sequel, continuing the timeline from where Nieuw België: een migratiegeschiedenis ends.

Tom Naegels has said to be very honoured to be the first winner of this prize, and that the book stemmed from a desire to know more about the migration because it was frequently the topic of societal debate throughout his life.

Besides his prize-winning non-fiction book, he has published short stories and novels. He is also a columnist for De Standaard as well as a journalist.

He has won a prize before, for his 2005 novel Los. The book, in which multiculturality was also an important theme, was awarded the Gerard Walschap prize, which was awarded every two years to an author with maximum four books to their name.

This novel was also made into a movie by Belgian director Jan Verheyen in 2008.

Nieuw België: een migratiegeschiedenis has been translated into French, with the title La Nouvelle Belgique. Une histoire de l’immigration 1944-1978.