Dani Bennoni: Long May He Live
Dani Bennoni: Long May He Live by Bart Moeyaert, translation: Wanda Boeke
(Front Street, 2008, 93 pages)
A stunning, sophisticated story about a boy's love for his older brother. Bing wants more than anything to become a soccer player like his big brother Mone. That's no easy matter for a Belgian boy of eleven or twelve, especially for a boy like Bing.
It's the late 1930s, and Mone has been conscripted into the army, leaving Bing's mother more or less dysfunctional. With the clear understanding that if he wants to get anything he's going to have to do it by dint of brains, cunning, and perhaps a bit of chicanery, Bing asks the local soccer hero, Dani Bennoni, for help. Dani Bennoni kindly but firmly refuses to train him. Bing hatches a plan to get Dani's help, but the plan backfires, and the misunderstandings multiply. Dani decides to teach Bing a lesson. What follows—and the action all occurs in a twenty-four-hour period—involves deception, confrontation, panic, humiliation amid a bit of homosexual activity, and Bing's unsuccessful attempt to hide Dani's call-up notice. The motivating force behind all Bing's decisions and activities is his love for his brother, unencumbered by sentimentality, making it all the more profound.