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Wonder Paperback – Deckle Edge, May 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From 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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Review

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago; Tra edition (May 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980033012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980033014
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wonderlust on June 23, 2012
Format: Paperback 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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