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?