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The Sorrow of Belgium (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Hugo Claus , Arnold J. Pomerans
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 April 1994 Penguin Twentieth Century Classics
Set during the turbulent years of 1939 to 1947, this is the story of a nation's coming of age, seen through the eyes of an adolescent, Louis Seynaeve. Returning home from his Catholic boarding-school to Walle, he finds that his family is more than willing to collaborate with the Germans.


Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 April 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140188010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140188011
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big in Belgium ;) 15 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The sorrow of Belgium, one of the better contemporary novels in Belgian (Dutch) literature, a telling story of every day life in WWII and the repression that followed it. A beautifull, not very flattering look at Flemish/Belgian Society. The translation doesn`t offer the unique quality the novel has in its original version, but it`s still more then worth a read.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age in war-time Flanders 24 Oct 1998
By A Customer
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best way to learn to understand Belgians 27 April 1999
By Ralph Hoffman (lockaert@wxs.nl) - Published on Amazon.com
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).
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What can you say? 26 Sep 2004
By Pen - Published on Amazon.com
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?
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably one of the finest novels of the past century 23 Dec 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age in war-time Flanders 24 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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)?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two-Books-in-One 14 Sep 2007
By Liang Wen Feng - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My rating of four stars reflects the fact that I give five stars to the first part and three to the last part. The first third of the book is a beautiful, heartbreaking story of one schoolboy's love for his male friend. However many schoolboy romances there are, we can always use more of them. On the other hand, the last two-thirds of the book gives us an overlong mishmash of interactions between largely uninteresting characters (with some notable exceptions, such as the boy who earns a little money by sharing his body with a man in the neighborhood). I do recommend the book overall, but understand that you may find it a real slog getting to the end.
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