Korneel De Rynck (°1986) is historian, master in international politics and writer. In 2008 he won the Flemish Thesis Award. In 2011 he published the book ‘Tito’s garden. A journey along the railway Belgrade-Sarajevo’ (in Dutch), which was received very positively by the media, and which won the Groene Waterman Public Prize and was nominated for the prestigious VPRO Bob den Uyl Award for the best travel book. In March 2014 he published ‘Iron harvest. A journey through Europe and the Great War’ (in Dutch). His great grandfather fought on the Belgian front, near the Yser-river, and survived the war.
‘Iron harvest. A journey through Europe and the Great War’ (in Dutch, De Bezige Bij Antwerpen, 2014).
One century after the First World War broke out Korneel De Rynck travels through Europe, visiting the locations where the most important moments of the war took place. His journey goes through Belgium and France, but also Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Poland and Belarus. De Rynck finds traces of the battlefields, visits monuments and cemeteries, and speaks with local experts. At the same time he tells the history, based on numerous sources. The story begins at the street corner in Sarajevo where in 1914 Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand. It ends in the forest of Compiègne where the armistice was signed. In between De Rynck drives, for example, behind the German troops during the Battle of Tannenberg, he climbs the mountains near Caporetto and speaks with the mayor of a destroyed village in the neighbourhood of Verdun. Iron harvest is an original combination of history and travel story, of past and present. It is a journey along the silent witnesses that remained after the deafening roar.
Published in March 2014 by De Bezige Bij Antwerpen (The Busy Bee). With the support of the Flemish Literature Fund. 20 chapters, 412 pages, 16 maps, index.
‘De Rynck is an excellent storyteller and a clever strategist.’ **** – newspaper De Morgen
‘An impressive travel story. (…) This European journey through WWI stands out among the mass of memorial books.’ – newspaper De Tijd
‘The First World War in less than 400 pages: what an impressive achievement. The author takes you to other times and other places, and he makes you aware of the similarities between 1914 and 2014.’ – VRT culture (Flemish Radio and Television)
‘Korneel De Rynck (…) is a natural born storyteller. Even those who have some knowledge about the First World War will discover a lot of new things in this fascinating book.’ – The Post Online / Liberales
‘This young author is a good storyteller; he finds a good balance between historical facts, anecdotes and accurate observations.’ – De Leeswolf (library magazine)
‘Tito’s garden. A journey along the railway Belgrade-Sarajevo’ (in Dutch, EPO, 2011)
December 2009. For the first time in eighteen years a direct train goes from Belgrade to Sarajevo, from the present Serbian to the Bosnian capital. The connection had come to a halt in 1991: former president Tito’s Yugoslavia fell apart, and for four long years, a cruel war waged between Serbs, Croats and Muslims, involving ethnic cleansing, ten thousands of casualties and millions of refugees. Now the intercity is back. Could this be a sign of reconciliation? Korneel De Rynck travels the length of the railway line, through Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, past places that remind of death and destruction. He looks back at what happened then and what has changed since the end of the conflict. Do the people live together again? Did the circumstances that led to war disappear? During his voyage he talks to people on the train and in the towns and villages along the tracks. He meets Tito’s granddaughter, the previous Croatian president Stjepan Mesic, a former advisor of Milosevic. He speaks with politicians, journalists, ngo’s, war veterans, and religious leaders. But also with Zoran, who built a church because he had survived the war, with the young Bosnian refugee Mladenko, the soccer-playing imam of Doboj, a seller of Mladic calendars and the managers of a segregated day care centre in Vukovar. A story about a train, about traces of reconciliation, about lasting enemies and renewed friendships.
With superb images of Frederik Buyckx (°1984), winner of many awards and photographer for the Belgian newspaper De Standaard.
‘A beautiful, honest and sensitive description of life in the post-Yugoslavia countries. The book brilliantly revives the atmosphere of the Balkans in the past and the present, whilst being respectful to all ethnic groups, especially to the ordinary people who crossed the author’s path. A compelling story that never loses speed.’ – Stefan Blommaert, Belgian TV reporter and Eastern Europe expert
The Belgian quality newspapers De Standaard and Metro gave the book 4 stars. The review site Cutting Edge gave it 3 stars.
‘A very good book: interesting and well written’ – Radio 1
‘A wonderful book’ – Radio Klara
‘An in-depth travel story that reads smoothly’ – De Wereld Morgen
Nomination for the shortlist of the Groene Waterman-award 2012
Winner of the Groene Waterman Public Prize 2012
Nomination for the VPRO Bob den Uyl-award 2012 for the best travel book