Wonder

Overview

While exposing the remains of Flemish fascism twenty years after the War, Wonder tracks one man's descent into madness. Victor, a bewildered teacher, pursues a mysterious woman to a castle in a remote village. There he finds himself trapped among a handful of desperate individuals still living out their collaboration with the Nazis. As Victor's sanity begins to crumble, he poses as an expert on their messianic leader, who disappeared at the Russian front but whose return they believe imminent. The rich cadences ...

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Overview

While exposing the remains of Flemish fascism twenty years after the War, Wonder tracks one man's descent into madness. Victor, a bewildered teacher, pursues a mysterious woman to a castle in a remote village. There he finds himself trapped among a handful of desperate individuals still living out their collaboration with the Nazis. As Victor's sanity begins to crumble, he poses as an expert on their messianic leader, who disappeared at the Russian front but whose return they believe imminent. The rich cadences of the prose and dense emotional texture of characters lost in complex moral labyrinths make Wonder a symphony only Claus could have composed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Claus rages against the decay of the physical self while desire remains untamed. From the beginning, his poetry has been marked by an uncommon mix of intelligence and passion, given expression in a medium over which he has such light-fingered control that art becomes invisible. —J.M. Coetzee

While fully aware that such an honorable title can only be used in great exceptions in Flemish literature, I would call Wonder a masterpiece. —Paul de Wispelaere, Vlaamse Gids

Claus's work is just as broad as the soul is deep. —Gerrit Komrij

The greatest writer of my generation. —Remco Campert Fine and ambitious . . . A work of savage satire intensely engaged with the moral and cultural life of the author’s Belgium . . . Packed with asides, allusions, and fierce juxtapositions, a style created to evoke a world sliding into chaos where contrast and contradictions are so grotesque that we can only ‘wonder’. . . . [Wonder is] a reminder of the energy and experimental verve with which so many writers of the Fifties and Sixties (Malaparte, Bernhard, Grass, Böll, Burgess, Pynchon) conjured up [a] disjointed and rapidly complicating world. —The New York Review of Books

To speak today of a still largely-unknown major work on European Fascism . . . seems presumptuous, rather like announcing the existence of, if not a new continent, at least a land mass of strange and significant proportions. But in discussing Wonder, it would be churlish not to admit to an explorer’s exhilaration at discovery. —The National

Publishers Weekly

Belgian author Claus (1929-2008) reveals in this haunting, polyglot novel (first published in the Netherlands in 1962) the deep psychological scars lingering in Flemish society following the German occupation of WWII. Over the course of a strange, disorienting weekend, protagonist Victor-Denijs de Rijckel, a divorced 37-year-old English and German teacher in Flanders, observes an intriguing woman at the local summer ball and pursues her, with the help of one of his young students, to her castle home on the coast. Once there, he and the student, Verzele, ingratiate themselves to mystery woman Alessandra and her aging parents, who turn out to be unrepentant Nazi collaborators, still glorifying the memory of Allessandra's former lover, a local pro-German hero who vanished at war's end. The narrative fragments that make up the account grow increasingly hallucinatory as the novel proceeds, shifting points of view and time period, and soon it becomes clear that the storyteller is reassembling the action some months later in a mental hospital. A bizarre, kaleidoscopic hide-and-seek narrative, this novel draws forth history's phantoms with a true sense of menace. (May)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780980033014
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press
  • Publication date: 5/8/2009
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 338
  • Sales rank: 1,063,489
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The prose, poetry, and paintings of Hugo Claus (1929-2008) were as influential as they were groundbreaking. His novels include The Sorrow of Belgium, his magnum opus of postwar Europe, as well as Desire, The Swordfish, Mild Destruction, Rumors, and The Duck Hunt. His corpus of poetry is immense and stunningly diverse. Claus's painting led him to become involved in the avant-garde Cobra movement. Impossible to pin down. Claus was eclectic and in constant motion; his work is kaleidoscopic. In addition to receiving every major Dutch-language literary prize, Claus received the 2002 Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding for his body of work.

Michael Henry Heim has translated dozens of novels, plays, and essays from a number of languages. His translations include The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, My Century by Günter Grass, Helping Verbs of the Heart by Péter Esterházy, and Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. He is the recipient of the American Literary Translators Association Prize, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize, and the PEN American Center Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Read an Excerpt

The teacher walked the twenty feet from his room to the elevator in wonder. Waited at the latticework of the cage. Stuck three fingers through the mesh.
(This is a beginning. In the hallway redolent of belladonna. And just as one has a chance of winning the lottery if one buys all the tickets, there is the chance of an end.)
There was no sound but the rumble of the elevator. No, not the shuffle of floral-patterned, rubber-soled slippers along the wine-red runner leading from the gypsy woman’s room to the elevator shaft, expressly, so it seemed, for her tiny, swift, perpetually unwashed feet in those mules with the violets embroidered on them.

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