I’ve been translating quite a lot of elderly Flemish over the past few months. Here’s an excerpt from some manuscript memoirs found in the municipal archives of Ditverstaanzetochniet:
An ivory trader on the Congo River has been suffering severe depression as a result of harrassment by an inquisitive steamboat captain speaking defective French. He decides that the only way to relieve his distress is to hold a party for friends and colleagues, the star turn of which will be beer imported specially from an excellent brewery in a Flemish village called Steenhuffel.
When the beer arrives on Le Roi des Belges, the trader is busy recycling a Steinway keyboard, so he asks a friendly Belgian army NCO to get some men to take the crates up to his house. It is an unusually hot afternoon, and the men are unable to resist the temptation. An hour before the party is due to start, the trader returns to his house and finds the crates in disarray and the men asleep.
“Where is my beer?” he cries.
“It’s all here, sir,” replies the corporal in some confusion.
“But how can it be here? All the bottles are empty!”
“Ah, sir,” says the corporal, “you see, the Duvel is in the detail.”
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Captain Kettle, the British Library Online Newspaper Archive and our fellow-Europeans.
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No, it’s not a Belgian joke: in Belgium you can send your email and have it delivered, registered, by a smelly