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Travel: Odd’s own country

Regulars | By William Cook | December 2017


Belgium is so familiar, yet so weird. No wonder it produced the world’s greatest Surrealists. William Cook headed off on the trail of René Magritte, and found himself in a strange parallel universe

Standing on Ostend’s windswept promenade, gazing out across the cold grey water, British travellers could be forgiven for wondering why they ever bothered to leave Blighty.  The weather is identical (damp and blustery); the architecture is pretty similar (drab brick and concrete); even the locals look much the same, wrapped up against the wind and rain. The thing that brought me here, and keeps bringing me back, is something you’ll never find in Britain. Ostend may look like Ramsgate on a rainy day but, unlike Ramsgate, it’s the gateway to the homeland of Surrealist art. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by Surrealism. My parents (both artists) were always trying to introduce me to Abstraction, but I was far more interested in the dreamlike art of René Magritte.  ‘Where does Magritte live?’ I asked my mum.  ‘Belgium,’ she replied.  ‘Where’s Belgium?’ I asked her.  ‘Between France and...

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