Hugo Claus (1929-2008) is the most famous and probably the most important Flemish writer of modern literature. The internationally acclaimed author of dozens of plays, novels and collections of poetry was also a successful painter and cinematographer. In his Faulknerian novels, Claus mixes expertly crafted stories of post-war Flanders with poignant character portraits and telltale allusions to Greek and Christian mythology. His panoramic depiction of ‘la Flandre profonde’ in The Sorrow of Belgium testifies to the literary grandeur of Flanders’ most protean scribe.
With the publication of his debut novel The Duck Hunt, multi-faceted talent Claus was described as a ‘wunderkind’. That seems to have been well justified: the mature Claus went on to make his name as a novelist and short story writer, poet, theatre and film director, translator, dramatist and screenplay writer, and painter.
Although Claus is a stirring eclectic who displays a masterful variety of genre and style in all his activities, the basic theme of his work is clearly the urge for freedom, which must be fought for in family, church and society. Claus’ work addresses not only the malaise in society, but also inner unease. In his eyes, it exists as an absurd joke of fate. Fortunately that does not restrain him from creating work that is exuberant in subject matter, eloquence, form and language.
Photo © Stephan Vanfleteren