Hugo Claus dies at 78

20th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for some time and had asked to undergo euthanasia.

The writer Hugo Claus has died at the age of 78. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for some time and had asked to undergo euthanasia.
Claus was a universal artist: he wrote poetry and novels, painted and made films.

The character of his work is particularly diverse. He combined the banal and the burlesque with tragedy.

Often classical themes return: love for the mother, hatred of the father, Roman Catholicism and Flanders during and after the war.

His most famous work is Het Verdriet van België (The Sorrow of Belgium, 1983), an epic tale of Flanders under Nazi occupation.

"One of the few Flemish artists to escape provincialism"

Hugo Claus was born in Bruges (West Flanders) in 1929 and died in Antwerp on Wednesday.

During his lifetime Claus spent several years in France, Italy and the Netherlands and months in the United States and Greece.

His work is profoundly marked by a constant quest for liberty, adventure and independence.

Claus was a loner, a man who always went his own way and always kept his distance.

Of great importance to Claus was his encounter with modernism and, especially, with surrealism after the Second World War.

Playwright and translator

He was a prolific dramatist writing 35 original pieces and making 31 translations of English, Greek, Latin, French and Spanish plays and novels.

 Highlights in his output are Een bruid in de morgen (A Bride in the morning, 1955), Suiker (Sugar, 1958) and Vrijdag (Friday, 1969).

His most successful plays share a certain form of realism and they all combine comedy and tragedy.

From English he translated the works of Beckett, Noel Coward, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare.

Prizes galore, but no trip to Stockholm

Of all Dutch-writing authors, Claus has received most awards and prizes.

His name was often connected with the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he himself claimed to have given up hope of ever receiving it.

A painter and filmmaker too...

He participated in the Belgian branch of the international COBRA-movement together with Christian Dotremont and Pierre Alechinsky.

 In Paris in the early fifties, he met experimental painters like Karel Appel, Corneille, Asger Jorn and their writing counterparts, e.g. Simon Vinkenoog, Remco Campert and Lucebert, on a daily basis.

He wrote some twenty film scripts too and directed several movies, including De vijanden (The enemies, 1967) and Vrijdag (Friday, 1980). 

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