Wonder

Overview

“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

In his Faulknerian novels, Hugo Claus mixes expertly crafted stories of postwar Flanders with poignant psychological portraits rich in mythological and literary allusion. In Wonder, a landmark of Flemish literature, Claus mixes the souls of a handful of displaced and desperate individuals with the ...

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Overview

“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

In his Faulknerian novels, Hugo Claus mixes expertly crafted stories of postwar Flanders with poignant psychological portraits rich in mythological and literary allusion. In Wonder, a landmark of Flemish literature, Claus mixes the souls of a handful of displaced and desperate individuals with the backdrop of Flanders and visions of the Polish and Russian fronts of WWII. The dense emotional texture of the characters entangled in complex moral labyrinths combined with a deep feeling for Flemish history make the novel a symphony that only Hugo Claus could have composed.

Hugo Claus (1929-2008), author of dozens of plays, novels, and collections of poetry, is arguably the most important Belgian writer of the twentieth century. His most celebrated novel is The Sorrow of Belgium (1983).

Michael Henry Heim is the winner of the 2005 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, the ALTA Translation Prize, and the AATSEEL Award. He has translated the work of Günter Grass, Milan Kundera, Bohumil Hrabal, and Péter Esterházy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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."
Tim Parks, 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."
Sam Munson, The National

"We cannot accept the world as it is. Each day we should wake up foaming at the mouth from the injustice of things."
Hugo Claus

"The greatest writer of my generation."
Remco Campert

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

"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 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

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
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of dozens of plays, novels, and collections of poetry, Claus is generally considered the most important Belgian writer of the twentieth century. His masterpiece is "The Sorrow of Belgium." Michael Henry Heim has translated dozens of novels, plays, and essays from the German, Russian, French, Czech, Serbian, Croatian and Flemish. Highlights include the work of Günter Grass, Péter Esterházy, and Milan Kundera. He is the recipient of the ALTA Prize, the AATSEEL award, and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize.

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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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