Hugo Claus - The Rumours
Hugo Claus set The Rumours in the mid-1960s. René Catrijsse, a man in his twenties who fought in the Belgian Congo before deserting, returns to his home village of Alegem in West Flanders, a stifling, closed society of corrupt souls. By his very presence, the young man, who has witnessed and committed atrocities in Africa and learned about the narrowness of the divide between civilization and savagery, seriously disrupts life in the village.
The disturbance caused by his arrival manifests itself in a deadly epidemic that sweeps through Alegem, and in a series of fatal accidents. It is not hard to guess who will be blamed. It is as if a cesspit has opened up as one disaster follows another.
The central theme of this book is characteristic of Claus: the unresolved past of Belgium’s colonial struggles in the Congo. And since the deserter René was fathered by a Flemish Nazi collaborator, the book touches on that aspect of the past as well. All this is presented by Claus in a playful style, as if we were witnessing not a dramatic allegory but a juicy tale of village life.
Hugo Claus (1929-2008) is the most important post-war Flemish writer. In addition to his literary work, he has been active as a painter and a movie maker. His wide-ranging oeuvre consists of novels, stories, poems, plays and film scripts. His masterpiece is The Sorrow of Belgium (1983) a massive Bildungsroman set against a black page in the history of Belgium: collaboration with the German occupier during the Second World War. Claus has received many important domestic and foreign prizes, among them the Great Prize of Dutch Letters in 1986, the most important literary honor in the Dutch language. In 1997 he received the Libris Literature Prize for The Rumours.
- ‘Impressive, incisive and wise…’ – NRC Handelsblad
- ‘In writing prose, Claus never ceases to be a poet.’ – Trouw