In Elsschot's novel Kaas / Cheese, the main character Laarmans has representatives for this cheese business in several Belgian cities. Because he doesn't hear back from them, he decides to visit his two representatives in Brussels, whose names are Noeninckx and Delaforge. In Sander Berg's translation (Alma Books, 2017, page 92, end of chapter XIV), this is described as follows:

After an interminable tram ride, I was told that Noeninckx was completely unknown at the address he'd given. (…)
Delaforge lived in a very different part of town, in a garret, I think, because the stairs didn't go any further.

Laarmans doesn't mention any addresses, which is in itself unremarkable, since Noeninckx and Delaforge are never mentioned again. However, in chapter XXI, just after Laarmans has decided to give up the cheese business, he receives an order form from his representative in Bruges, René Viaene. Laarmans then looks up Viaene's application, which read as follows (page 125):

I'll try and sell a bit of cheese. Yours sincerely, René Viaene, Rozenhoedkaai 17, Bruges.

Like Noeninckx and Delaforge, Viaene is never mentioned again in the novel. This raises the question why Elsschot makes sure his address is mentioned explicitly. He does this only for Laarmans's own address and Viaene's. What makes Viaene's address so special?

1 Answer 1


De Rozenhoedkaai is a real location in Bruges (and frequently photographed by tourists).

Rozenhoedkaai at dusk, with the illuminated façades and the dark blue sky reflected in the water
(View from Rozenhoedkaai, blue hour. By Arcalino. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.)

In Georges Rodenbach's novel Bruges-la-Morte (1892), the main character, Hugues Viaene, lives on the Rozenhoedkaai. The novel's first chapter says (emphasis mine),

Hugues Viane se disposa à sortir, comme il en avait l’habitude quotidienne à la fin des après-midi. Inoccupé, solitaire, il passait toute la journée dans sa chambre, une vaste pièce au premier étage, dont les fenêtres donnaient sur le quai du Rosaire, au long duquel s’alignait sa maison, mirée dans l’eau.


Hugues Viane prepared to go out, as was his daily habit at the end of the afternoon. Unoccupied, solitary, he spent the whole day in his bedroom, a large room on the first floor, whose windows overlooked the Rozenhoedkaai, along which his house was lined up, reflected in the water.

The journalist Johan Anthierens seems to have been the first to discover this allusion, which he mentioned in his book Willem Elsschot. Het Ridderspoor (Meulenhoff/Kritak, 1992, page 116).

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