Wonder

Hugo Claus

translated from the Dutch by Michael Henry Heim
Archipelago Books 2009 [1962]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2010 http://dannyreviews.com/
A teacher — "Rijckel, English-German" — encounters a woman at a masked ball and, egged on and accompanied by one of his students, takes off on an expedition into the Flanders countryside to find her.

He ends up in a village where the local manor is hosting a meeting of wartime collaborators. He pretends to be an expert on their messianic leader, who died in Russia, and is told local stories about the war and liberation while he engages in an erotic liaison with the daughter of the house. Meanwhile, the inn he and the student are staying in provides a rather different perspective, especially since the villagers think his relationship with the student is dubious.

This narrative is interlaced with Rijckel's memories of an earlier affair and short-lived marriage with one of his students. And a final strand is a future where he is keeping a secret notebook while held in some kind of institution — it's not clear whether he's been kidnapped and imprisoned, or is in clinical care.

Published in 1962, Wonder addressed a subject — Flemish collaboration with the Nazis and its post-war persistence — that is still interesting fifty years on. Claus' achievement here, however, is his presentation of the unreliable, feckless and confused Rijckel, who is the centre that holds the disparate strands together in an effective story.

January 2010

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- review and links at the Complete Review
- details at Archipelago Books
Related reviews:
- Hugo Claus - The Sorrow of Belgium
- more Dutch literature
- books published by Archipelago Books
%T Wonder
%A Claus, Hugo
%M Dutch
%F Heim, Michael Henry
%I Archipelago Books
%D 2009 [1962]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780980033014
%P 338pp