|Niets was alles wat hij zei (Nothing Was All He Said)
Ben Vertriest is the main character in the Belgian young adult drama novel Niets was alles wat hij zei (Nothing Was All He Said).
The story is based on true events; a 17-year-old autistic boy committed suicide by jumping off the Gravensteen in Ghent due to bullying.
Ben Vertriest is a 17-year-old living at home with his mother and younger brother Jonas. He gets severely bullied at school, with the school not really doing anything against it. He has one somewhat friend, Coppola, nicknamed such because he always talks about movies. At home, he is able to thrive on routine (thanks to his mother). He spends a lot of time online playing his favorite video game Lethal Assault and chatting - especially with a girl by the pseudonym of Barbie. He goes to meet up with Barbie at a train station, but quickly backs out of their encounter and tries to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. Barbie prevents him from doing so, and berates him for taking "the easy way out". Together, they fake his suicide, and expose his bullies at his "funeral" with videos taken by Coppola.
The epilogue shows him attending dolphin therapy and talking to Barbie. It is revealed that in reality, he is talking into thin air and Barbie is just a figment of his imagination (though it is not explicated exactly when the story transitions from the real Barbie to Ben's imagined Barbie, if she was even real to begin with).
Ben is 1m93 (6 ft. 4 in.) tall. He has black hair and a very pale skin. He always wears black clothes paired with a baseball cap.
Ben is diagnosed with autism at age 17. He thrives on a very strict routine at home, but has difficulty coping at school due to the lack of structure. He gets severely bullied by two classmates, Bogaert and Desmet and has no friends aside from Coppola. The bullies taunt him for being different, calling him names such as "marsman" ("Martian") and humiliating him by pulling down his pants in front of the class. Though some teachers try to mildly berate the bullies - indicating that "Ben is just a bit different" - it is mostly ignored by teachers and classmates alike.
Ben constantly counts things such as stairs, houses and lampposts on his route to school, etc. He stims by rocking back and forth.
He speaks very little. He also exhibits echolalia, repeating nursery rhymes in his childhood and sometimes repeating what others say back to them. Stemming from his fascination with nursery rhymes as a child, he enjoys communicating in rhyme; all of his convos with Barbie are in rhyme.
Nothing Was All He Said is the original rendition of Ben. See here for a list of adaptations.
- The last name "Vertriest" is a play on words. "Triest" means sad or dreary, and "ver" is a common prefix in Dutch-language last names, meaning his name roughly translates to "McDreary".