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Wonder [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Hugo Claus , Michael Henry Heim

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Book Description

May 8 2009

“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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago Books; Tra edition (May 8 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980033012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980033014
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,560,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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

About 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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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost in World Lit June 23 2012
By Wonderlust - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
(3.75)I picked this up after noticing it had won a PEN Translation Prize and after having enjoyed the fresh perspectives that great translations of great writers have on the English language.

The positives: You can open the book to any page and find something uniquely poetic or insightful. I will keep the book for this reason. It reminded me at times of Ulysses and Steppenwolf. The book is designed like a half-book or perfect square, but the pages are surreptitiously long, an illusive nature befitting of the text.

The in-between: The sheer random non-linear plot keeps you on your toes, but it can be frustrating to continually leap into new stories and histories page after page, leaving you often feeling lost in a labyrinth, which then becomes cool and rewarding and just like life itself!

The not-so-great: The book could use notes for all the references and foreign phrases that non-Flemish readers will need to research. It takes some time to get into the book, partly due to chapters written in a 'mad-house', where poetics reign over plot progression. Insane writing can be contrite, but here it just takes time to warm-up to. Finally, the ending was (to my modern sensibilities) incongruously bleak and abrupt, which I'm sure was the point.

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