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The greatest classic in Flemish literature

The Sorrow of Belgium

Hugo Claus

The monumental novel ‘The Sorrow of Belgium’ is set in the late 1930s and World War II. It focuses on the young Louis Seynaeve, who tries to escape from a Flemish petit-bourgeois environment in which morality is bent to suit self-interest and in which the father has no qualms about working for the Germans as a printer.

One of the landmark European novels of the post-war era
J.M. Coetzee

This Bildungsroman is also a social document about political and social misfortune in Flanders before, during, and after World War II. In particular, it is a look from within at the man-in-the-street in wartime and at the circumstances that gave rise to collaboration. Louis avoids the lure of fascism through his innate anarchism and intellectual insight; in this, he is a typical Claus protagonist.

The novel has continued to be a bestseller for many years and has been translated into numerous languages.

A long, dense, rich novel, intensely moral and poetic
The New York Times
This is the Great Belgian Novel
The Times