Author

Paul Claes

Paul Claes (b. 1943) studied Dutch, English and classical arts and is also a specialist in French literature. He is active as a poet, essayist, translator and novelist. In 1988, he published the fascinating study, Echoes, echoes, which demonstrates exceptional erudition. Claes’ point of departure is the assumption that all texts refer in one way or another to other texts and this is amply illustrated in his creative work. In his poetry, in particular, he is adept at literary imitation, and pastiches and literary falsifications often lend his work a whimsical undertone. The Chameleon’s publication in 2002 completed Paul Claes’s cycle of prize-winning novels which in style and theme are rooted in Western cultural history. Lily marks the beginning of a new series of novels, set in the final decades of the twentieth century and featuring women in specific situations.

The Phoenix

(De Bezige Bij, 1998, 168 pages)

De phoenix by Paul Claes is a historical detective story in the tradition of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It takes place in Florence in 1494, and the leading character is one of the greatest scholars of the Renaissance, Count Pico della Mirandola.

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The Chameleon

The Chameleon

(De Bezige Bij, 2001, 240 pages)

In his fourth novel, De Kameleon (The Chameleon) Paul Claes leads the reader through a lively yarn set on the eve of the Age of Reason. For a joke, Charles Déon, a young gentleman but with feminine traits, goes to a masked ball dressed as a young lady and catches the eye of the hostess. Later that evening, her husband, the marquis, takes him aside. A game of shape shifting and gender swapping ensues with entirely unforeseen consequences.

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The Heart of the Scorpion

The Heart of the Scorpion

(De Bezige Bij, 2002, 173 pages)

In Het hart van de schorpioen, Claes has written an unusual autobiography, in which he largely satisfies ones curiosity as to the author behind the intriguing, creative imitations. Instead of a conventional, often chronological narrative, Paul Claes has opted for a series of short paragraphs based on key words, interspersed with lists, musings, bald statements – which he describes as ‘scryptograms’ rather than aphorisms – and snatches of translation.

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Lily

Lily

(De Bezige Bij, 2003, 192 pages)

Lily is stylistically different from Paul Claes’s better known historical novels. The narrative is imbued with the stuffiness of 1950’s Flanders, with its rigid sexual and family moral codes. Lily, growing up in Flanders during the fifties and sixties, timid and self-effacing, is envious of her two elder sisters and a cousin Alice for being adventurous and outgoing. She turns to Alice for moral support, and Alice cautiously introduces her to the world of adolescence.

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