In analogy with the question Is the character named Laarmans supposed to be the same person across Elsschot's œuvre?, it is also possible to ask whether Boorman is the same character in the novels in which he makes an appearance. In Lijmen/Het Been (Soft Soap/The Leg), Boorman is the publisher of the World Magazine for Finance, Trade, Industry, Art and Science, which in reality is just a glorified bundle of advertising texts.

In Cheese, Boorman is mentioned again; his address is "Villa des Roses, Brasschaet". In which other Elsschot novels and novellas does Boorman appear and is he each time the same character or the name of a more general type of character that Elsschot recycles?

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In Lijmen/Soft Soap and Het Been/The Leg, Boorman is the second-most important character after narrator and protagonist Frans Laarmans. He "inherited" the World Magazine for Finance, Trade, Industry, Art and Science from a Frenchman, who also wrote a large number of articles for it (Verzameld werk, page 293), which Boorman simply recycled by replacing company names and product descriptions to suit the company or organisation that bought the magazine.

His wife calls him Karel (Verzameld werk, page 265), which is the Dutch of Flemish counterpart of Charles, the name that Boorman seems to be using as a businessman: the name plate next to the front door says "Ch. A. Boorman" (Verzameld werk, page 259).

Laarmans describes Boorman's physical appearance as follows (Lijmen/Soft Soap, chapter 2, Verzameld werk, page 254):

Het was een korte, stevig uitziende man van een jaar of vijftig, die op Beethoven leek, althans op dat gipsen masker, dat boven de meeste piano's hangt. Hij had een ontzaglijk hoofd voor zo'n kleine man, met een beweeglijk voorhoofd waar geen eind aan kwam, vooral ook omdat het zo van op een afstand bijna versmolt met zijn kale schedel, die alleen iets blanker was.


He was a short, sturdy-looking man of about fifty, who looked like Beethoven, at least like that plaster mask that hangs above most pianos. He had an enormous head for such a small man, with a mobile forehead that had no end, especially because from a distance it almost merged with his bald skull, which was only slightly whiter.

He is obviously the same character in Het been/The leg, since Elsschot wrote that story as a sequel to Lijmen/Soft Soap, and the whole can be read as a single novel in two parts, with a time gap of five years between them.

Elsschot uses the name Boorman again in Kaas/Cheese: Laarmans as it his wit's end about how to sell those twenty tons of cheese and finds the following ad in the newspaper Le Soir (Cheese, transl. S. Berg, page 102):

Written and oral consultations for merchants struggling with their sales. Many years' experience. Boorman, Villa der Roses, Brasschaat.

Laarmans visits Boorman, whom he describes as follows (Berg's translation, page 102):

Boorman is a sturdy little old gentleman with a large head and a steady gaze.

The physical description is consistent with the description in Lijmen/Soft Soap. Boorman gives him some advice that Laarmans also uses (though only just once, in a last-ditch effort). The Boorman from Soft Soap and The Leg would know enough about business to give the advice that Laarmans gets from him, but ... there is not the slightest indication that Laarmans and Boorman recognise each other's names, let alone each other. There is also no mention of the original Boorman's infamous "magazine".

Boorman is not really the same character but a little bit more than just a type due to the physical resemblance. In addition, "Villa des Roses" is a little joke on Elsschot's part: the Villa des Roses from his first novel was located in Paris, not in Antwerp.

We encounter Boorman again in Het tankschip/The tank ship, in which he plays a much more important part than in Cheese. He is the shrewd business man who involves Jack/Jacky Peeters in a scheme that helps a French business man reduce the assets that would be subject to taxes. Jacky Peeters describes him as follows (Het tankschip, chapter III, Verzameld werk, page 667):

Het bleek een korte maar stevig man te zijn die naar de zestig liep, (…), glad geschoren, kaal, met een groot hoofd, een vierkante onderkaak en een directe oogopslag, (…).


He turned out to be a short but sturdy man approaching sixty, (…), clean shaven, bald, with a large head, a square lower jaw and a direct gaze, (…).

This description is consistent with his two previous appearances, but there is not the slightest indication that Laarmans recognises his name when Peeters mentions it. This could very well be a literary joke on Elsschot's part, but I have already described how Laarmans is not entirely consistent, either and this can also serve to explain why he does not recognise Boorman.


  • Willem Elsschot: Cheese. Translated by Sander Berg. Alma Books, 2017.
  • Willem Elsschot: Verzameld werk. Amsterdam: P.N. Van Kampen, 1960. (See also the details about this edition in my answer to the related question about Laarmans.)

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