Verhelst and Cneut’s book, according to jury chairwoman Jelle Van Riet, is a thing of “disturbing beauty”. The text is a new, more musical version of Andersen’s fable, while the illustrations are a twist on traditional Chinese print-making. The pair share prize money of €25,000 and a trophy designed by world-renowned illustrator Ever Meulen.
Verhelst was born in Bruges and works in the theatre, especially with the NTGent company. He has published five novels, two novellas and eight volumes of poetry. He won the Golden Owl for Literature in 2000 with his book ultra-postmodern novel Tongkat.
Cneut was born in Wervik, also in West Flanders, and studied in Ghent, where he now teaches at the Fine Arts Academy. He has illustrated more than 20 children’s books. Both he and Verhelst have already picked up numerous awards.
The Golden Owl for Literature, meanwhile, was won by Amsterdam-based Robert Vuijsje for his debut novel Alleen maar nette mensen (Just Nice People). He also receives €25,000 and a trophy.