The Man I Became

by Peter Verhelst


An impressively entertaining tale about the frailty of our civilization by the leading Flemish writer Peter Verhelst, now for the first time in English.

Warning: this story is narrated by a gorilla. He is plucked from the jungle. He learns to chat and passes the ultimate test: a cocktail party. Eventually he is moved to an amusement park, where he acts in a show about the history of civilization. But as the gorilla becomes increasingly aware of human weaknesses, he must choose between his instincts and his training, between principles and self-preservation.

Written by Peter Verhelst.

120pp, paperback with flaps, £12
ISBN 978-1-908670-26-7
Publication date: 22 February 2016

Press & Reviews

'Again we can salute this enterprising publisher for chipping away at our insularity. A haunting, apocalyptic novella, supremely and deliberately difficult to pin down.' - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

'While The Man I Became entertains us with the strangeness of anthropomorphism, it is profoundly engaged with the strangeness of being human.' - Lucy Carlyle, The Times Literary Supplement

'An ambitious and provocative dissection of human nature.' - Oxford Culture Review

'The novella carries a certain forward momentum: a pace that translator David Colmer brings beautifully to the English. The reader has no choice but to be swept along for the ride.' - Asymptote

'As the story progresses, The Man I Became turns into a taut thriller, picking up pace without losing focus on the themes which run through the narrative.' - Thom Cuell, The Workshy Fop

About The Book


Peter Verhelst, born in 1962, is a Belgian Flemish novelist, poet and playwright. He has written more than 20 books. His work has been praised for its powerful images, the sensuality and richness of its language and the author’s unbridled imagination. His breakthrough came in 1999 with the novel Tonguecat, which won the Golden Owl Literature Prize and the Flemish State Prize for Literature. The Man I Became is his eleventh novel.



David Colmer has translated more than 50 books from the Dutch: novels, children’s literature, and poetry. He has won a number of translation prizes, including the 2009 Biennial NSW Premier and PEN Translation Prize for his body of work. In 2010 his translation of Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and in 2013 he won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for his translation of Bakker’s The Detour.