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The Sorrow of Belgium (Tusk Ivories) Paperback – February 27, 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

As the war rages and ebbs in occupied Belgium between 1939 and 1947, Louis is struggling through the trials of adolescence. Knowledge in all its forms is his personal battleground as he moves from the sheltered world of the convent school to the chaos of death, internment, and reunification. His family, staunchly Flemish, collaborates willingly with the Germans. His pompous father hints at Gestapo connections, his bored mother blossoms in her new responsibility for German munitions, and the rest of his extended family lies enthralled by Nazi "discipline and order." Laced through everything is the constant tension between the Flemish and French linguistic and cultural traditions. Claus's well-written novel of discovery is a fine depiction of life under occupation that offers American readers a fresh perspective of events during the war. While its innovative structure makes for some tedious moments, it finally succeeds through its careful attention to Louis's changing awareness in a dynamic time.
- Paul E. Hutchison, Fishermans Paradise, Bellefonte, Pa.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Dutch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tusk Ivories
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; Reprint edition (February 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585672386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585672387
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,240,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Hugo Claus, most famous writer in the Low Countries, wrote this "piece de resistance". For his oeuvre he should be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature.
The work, although looking quite bulky, fascinates from the first till the last page. It decribes in a painfull manner the hypocritical way well-to-do families live in pre-war Belgium, how religious superficiality leads to short-sighted nationalism, conservatism and collaboration with members of the occupating "Herrenvolk".
Reading it, it helps to understand the ambiguous nature of the kingdom of Belgium (language, politics, economy and culture).
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By Pen on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I don't understand why all these Flemish Belgians review 'The Sorrow of Belgium' here at Amazon, just to say that it is a bad book. Probably they haven't read it. Or they had to read it or some other novel, play, piece of poetry by Claus at school, and disliked it at that time. One thing is for sure : they don't have the slightest insight in this book, or in any of Claus' work. Maybe they disagree with Claus' vision on Belgium, Catholicism, etc. To dislike Claus is only possible when you don't understand him. The Flemish reviewers just want to spit their frustration (call it : their ignorance) on the internet... It's silly.

The book isn't only the story of a childhood, a Bildungsroman, a war novel, a depiction of Belgian society during World War II, a postmodern novel with a procession of intertextual references to the Bible, Classical Mythology, Shakespeare, Jacob van Maerlant, Dante, Hölderlin, Gezelle, etc. It is a stilistic masterwork as well. Full of wit. Fabulous imaginery. Poetic. This is the work of a genuine writer, one out of many.

Too read Claus is to read a piece of art. He can only be compared to the greatest writers of all time : Joyce, Proust, Mann, Tolstoy, Borges, Ibsen, Pasolini... What can you say when you have finished 'The Sorrow of Belgium'? Maybe that you are stunned?
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Format: Hardcover
The sorrow of Belgium is a long, rich and stunning novel, poetic and at times heart-rending. The book is obviously the masters (this is how they call Hugo Claus in the newspapers and reviews here in Belgium and Holland) most impressive and most beautiful novel and has everything in it to become (if it isn't it already) a classic, also outside Belgium. Anyone who likes 20th century literature should read this book, it has everything in it from Proust, Joyce, and Faulkner to Garcia Marquez and ... Claus. Just read the book and make your own opinion.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with Ozzie from Ghent, although I read The Sorrow of Belgium in English after having lived in Flanders. It gives a real feel for life in a West Flemish town (? Kortrijk) in the years leading up to and including World War II. Yes, if you know the Low Countries you will feel more than a little nostalgia. But when will someone translate Claus's "Geruchten" (Rumors)?
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