Author

Hugo Claus

Hugo Claus (1929-2008) ranks as the most important Flemish writer after the Second World War. In addition to his literary work, he has been active as a painter and a movie maker. In the fifties he belonged to the avant-garde artists who were active in Paris. His wide-ranging oeuvre consists of novels, stories, poems, plays, and film scripts. His masterpiece is Het verdriet van België (The Sorrow of Belgium, 1983), a massive Bildungsroman which takes place against a black page in the history of Belgium: the collaboration with the German occupier. Claus has received many important domestic and foreign prizes, among which, in 1986, the Dutch Literature Prize (Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren), the most important literary honor in the Dutch language. In 1997 he received the Libris Literature Prize for De geruchten (The Rumours).

Wonder

Wonder

(De Bezige Bij, 1962, 242 pages)

Victor-Denijs De Rijckel, a self-conscious and sexually troubled language teacher, is asked by the headmaster to prepare a flattering introduction for the speech the latter is going to give in Oostende. De Rijckel, who has had to put up with the headmaster’s arrogance for years, chooses to attend a bewildering masquerade ball in the city’s casino instead. Overwhelmed by a boisterous feeling of liberty, he watches an austerely dressed woman refusing the advances of a hapless admirer. When the woman leaves for the beach, De Rijckel and the unfortunate admirer cannot keep up with her. The following morning, a thirteen year-old pupil invites De Rijckel on a trip to the village of Hekegem, a…

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Mild destruction

Mild destruction

(De Bezige Bij, 1988, 190 pages)

As in so much of his writing Hugo Claus incorporated autobiographical details in Een zachte vernieling (Mild Destruction), set in Paris in 1950, when, a young man in his early twenties, Claus there. After the Second World War Paris was a Mecca for artists and Claus soon came into contact with the CoBrA group painters Karel Appel among them, as well as the Dutch poets Remco Campert, Rudy Kousbroek, Hans Andreus and Lucebert, and the extravagant Simon Vinkenoog, the central figure of the group. They lived a hand-to-mouth existence, but relished being able to be immersed in the ambience of newly-won freedom and uncontainable creativity.

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The Rumours

The Rumours

(De Bezige Bij, 1996, 224 pages)

‘The road to civilisation has not been all that long,’ said Hugo Claus on the publication of his new novel, ‘and corruption is an everyday reality here. That makes it all the more striking when there is a real explosion.’ Such an unwelcome disruption of the existing order is the theme of De geruchten. The book is set in the mid-1960s. René Catrijsse, a man in his twenties who fought in the Belgian Congo before deserting from the army, returns to his home village of Alegem in West Flanders. He is on his last legs and has a badly wounded back.

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Unfinished History

(De Bezige Bij, 1998, 176 pages)

Hugo Claus is not only the most famous and best read of Flemish authors, he is also the most prophetic. Shortly after publication of his previous novel, De geruchten (The Rumours), Belgium was in turmoil over a paedophile who imprisoned, abused and murdered young girls in his cellar. It was as if Claus had seen it all coming. De geruchten, set in the 1960s in a Flemish village, features a chorus of voices located in the ‘Under the Carpet’ bar where rumours surround the return of René Catrijsse, a deserter from the Belgian army in the Congo, who has brought a satanic virus home with him and it claims one victim after another.

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Translated books

Website

http://www.clauscentrum.be