The Novel De Witte by Ernest Claes
De Witte is a character from the novel De Witte by Ernest Claes, which is set in the Zichem of 1901, a time in which socialism is on the rise and smallholders in the poor Belgian Kempen can barely keep their heads above water.
Louis Verheyden, nicknamed De Witte, goes to school but is not really a good student. He constantly plays jokes, doesn't keep to agreements and his pranks invariably get him a beating because of his gruff father. At a certain point, his father thinks that enough is enough: Louis has to work in his spare time for the tyrannical farmer Coene. Louis is wrong, but he has little choice. The poor family can use the extra income. But also with farmer Coene there is no brake on the mischievous pranks of Louis. One day, when he is sentenced again, he is locked in a mess room at school, where he sees the work of Hendrik Conscience. The lion of Flanders has a lot of influence on him. This allows him to flee completely from reality in the difficult circumstances in which a twelve-year-old lives in the year 1900.
The statue of De Witte is portrayed as a mischievous rascal who, barefooted and with his hands in his hips, looks up quizzically at that building of learning, a faculty of arts full of books and chip bins. But it is also a boy who dreams of becoming someone, with a fixed goal in his life, full of self-confidence. The small bronze statue stands on a large block of Hageland iron sandstone
Almost eighty years after Ernest Claes enrolled at the university in Germanic philology in 1906 and sixty-five years after De Witte first appeared in book form, the Faculty of Arts organized an exhibition about the writer. During the opening ceremony of the exhibition on 14 May 1985, the statue of De Witte was unveiled by Rector Piet De Somer and the chairman of the Ernest Claes Society, Jan Van Hemelrijck. The statue, which should have been given a place in De Witte's native region – but the best location was not agreed upon – was donated to the university by the Ernest Claes Society.
(Source: Leuven Gebeiteld_metkaft - Leuven statues.pdf, 2014 ),
photo by Aslı Tezcan