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Desire Paperback – November 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Prolific, award-winning Belgian writer Claus was much acclaimed for The Sorrow of Belgium (LJ 1/90), his 600-page novel of Belgium under the German occupation of World War II. His latest work, a terse account of a bad trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas taken by two gambling/pub buddies in the early 1970s, falls far short of that seminal work. There are secrets here, hints of matters dark and deep, and intimate betrayals as well as the inevitable culture clashes. But the fragmented plot and weak attempts to suggest meaningful symbolism fail to generate much drama. Jake, emotionally estranged from his wife and sick with worry over his mentally ill daughter, is a violent lout. Michel, the half-breed Belgian (who insists that his dark skin and negroid features came from an unknown Portuguese father), is poorly drawn and unempathetic. A dead comrade, the sinister Rickabone, remains a mystery, and, in the end, one simply does not care what happens to any of these characters. A bad remake of Naked Lunch, Belgian style. Not recommended.?Jo Manning, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

This cross-continental tale of Belgian gamblers seeking their fortunes in Las Vegas is the latest (1994) novel from the internationally acclaimed Flemish author of The Sorrow of Belgium (1990) and The Swordfish (p. 239). It's a fragmented story that begins in a bar called ``The Unicorn,'' whose regulars include Claus's unnamed narrator and a group of cronies burdened with colorful monikers (Felix the Cat, Rev'em-up Red, and so forth) who seem to have been transplanted to Europe from Cannery Row. Two of them, dark, brooding (half- Portuguese) Michel and enormously overweight Jake, impulsively light out for America, first to Los Angeles, then eastward to Vegas and the gaming tables. As the keen, ferretlike Michel and ``the sluggish, sleeping giant'' who accompanies him make their way through the various temptations offered by their newfound land, Claus builds a hilarious picture of southwestern American neon splendor (several abrasive hookers make vivid cameo appearances, and a Christian fundamentalist rancher takes Jake and Michel to a revival meeting that features an aging, foulmouthed Jerry Lee Lewis). These sequences are variously reminiscent of the inspired demolitions of trash-culture Americana accomplished decades ago by Evelyn Waugh and Nabokov, as well as Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. But there's more to the novel: sporadic returns back to Belgium, where the Unicorn's denizens comment on their missing buddies and Jake's abandoned wife struggles to tend their brain-damaged daughter; and occasional appearances by the ghost of Rickabone, their late wastrel companion, who seems to represent his survivors' darker side. Arresting conceptions and vigorous writing abound, but- -except for an inchoate pattern of ironical allusions to the biblical Jacob (who, unlike his namesake, amassed great wealth and experienced a vision of eternity)--none of this adds up to a coherent novel. The Sorrow of Belgium was almost a masterpiece. Desire is a curiosity that reads like Hugo Claus's American Notes, not yet reshaped into fiction. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Open market ed edition (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140255389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140255386
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,622,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Two Belgian friends travel to Las Vegas for a fornight. But their minds never leave their home-town (Ghent), their families and their friends. Their troubles, repressed up to that date, surfaces...
The author (and the translator) have a sound command of the language and a vast vocabulary.
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