Hugo Claus

Hugo Claus , born onIn Bruges and died onIn Antwerp , is a writer, poet, playwright, screenwriter and Belgian Dutch- speaking director .


The son of a printer, Hugo fled from his father’s house and became a seasonal worker in the north of France.

In Paris , Antonin Artaud becomes for him a second father. He participated in the avant-garde revolution of post-war art and was part of the Cobra movement (1948-1951). After a stay in Italy where he became acquainted with the cinematographic milieu, he returned to Flanders and began a career as a novelist, poet, playwright, filmmaker and painter.

In the late 1960s , Claus played an important role in the protest movement, which wanted to reform social and cultural policy in Flanders. At the fourth International Festival of Experimental Cinema in Knokke-le-Zoute in 1967, he shocked public opinion by bringing three naked men on the stage to the role of the Holy Trinity .

In 1971, he was made Knight of the Order of the Crown .

Hugo Claus, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease , chose the date of his death and asked, as the Belgian law it there allowed to undergo euthanasia 1 , 2 .

Privacy Policy

For about ten years, Hugo Claus was the companion of the actress Sylvia Kristel . They had a son, Arthur, born on, Who is an actor.


  • Absynthe Minded, a Belgian band, adapted a poem by Hugo Claus, Envoi , in English in a song of the same name.

The writer

Considered one of the most talented Belgian novelists of his time, whose work is international in scope, Hugo Claus, quoted several times for the Nobel Prize for Literature , defines himself as a “Francophile flamingant” 3 . He is above all the critic of the traditionalism and the provincialism of the Flemish society, while bringing to the universal the evocation of mediocrity. If his style draws much inspiration from the great myths and literary classics, he does not retreat as far to the burlesque , triviality or obscenity 3 .

Deeply marked by his childhood in a strict Catholic boarding school, he was able to evoke in The Sorrow of Belgium (1985, trans. 1983 Het verdriet van België ) behavior of his countrymen during the last war and paint the fricoteur Flamand, conformist Professor with a realism that recalls that of Pieter Bruegel the Elder or James Ensor . He is nevertheless fascinated by his maternal region which he never ceases to recreate with sensitivity and intelligence:

“To maintain the morals and ecstasies of the tribe: yes, it is also the role of the writer. For example, Le Chagrin des Belges , I wrote it for my two sons to know how their father had lived in a quite strange and Neanderthal civilization. I wanted to show them what it was like to live before the war, during the war and after the war in a very small community. (H. Claus, Le Passe-Muraille , Lausanne, 1997).

The Grief of the Belgians is also his first great international success of bookstore.

The Decomposed Past , his last novel, appeared in Seuil in February 2000, takes up the same characters as La Rumeur :

“The police interrogation which constitutes the plot, as tight and as ambiguous as those of Crime and Punishment , awakens a number of essential questions about the human condition while resorting to the grotesque that triggers a squeaking laugh. It is a book according to my heart, made of blood and laughter, tenderness and horror, obscenity and poetry. “(Dedication of the translator, France Inter.)

Hugo Claus was awarded fifty prizes for his work 4 , in particular:

  • The Prix Lugné-Poe in 1955
  • The Ford Foundation Grant in 1959
  • The Constantijn Huygens Prize in 1979 5
  • The price of Dutch letters in 1986
  • The price of Black Humor Xavier Forneret in 1989 for L’Espadon
  • The international prize Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1997
  • The Aristeion literature prize in 1998
  • The Nonino Award in 2000
  • The Preis für Europäische Poesie in 2001


Enny Meunier and Coba Kelling  (nl) in a 1959 television broadcast of Hugo Claus’s play Een bruid in de morgen .

Theater and scenario

  • Complete Theater , The Age of Man , 4 vol., 16 pieces, 1990-1997
  • Escal-Vigor , screenplay by Hugo Claus from the novel by Georges Eekhoud . Preface and translation Mirande Lucien, Lille, QuestionDeGenre / GKC, 2002.

Escal-Vigor , the novel by Georges Eekhoud published at the Mercure de France in 1899 , is known for its modern re-editions. It is the first modern novel in which the love of a man for another man is not presented as A shameful vice, but as a just and legitimate feeling. The bourgeoisie of Belgium, the fatherland of Georges Eekhoud , heard the novelty of the matter and the author had to defend himself in 1900 before the court of assizes of Bruges for breach of morals. But what we did not know was the adaptation of Eekhoud’s novel by Hugo Claus. The Belgian novelist of Dutch language, known especially for the Chagrin of the Belgians , his master book appeared in French translation in 1985, is also author of scenarios (a score) and director. He was responsible for films like De vijanden ( Enemies ), (1967), Vrijdag ( “Friday Freedom Day”) (1980), Het Sacrament ( “The Sacrament”) (1989) or De verlossing ( “Redemption”) (2001). He adapted the novel by Georges Eekhoud Escal-Vigor in 1995 with the intention of bringing it to the screen. But the scenario remained in its boxes and the film was never realized. We can assume that the story of this scenario is somewhat similar to that told by Hugo Claus in his novel Belladonna

Mirande Lucien, who devoted his doctoral thesis to Georges Eekhoud , translated into French the script by Hugo Claus. The editions QuestionDeGenre / GKC publish its translation continuing thus this game of language undertaken by Eekhoud: a Flemish of French language.


  • Poems , Mercury of France, 1965
  • Ink with two brushes, written with Karel Appel and Pierre Alechinsky , Yves Rivière, 1979
  • Traces: choice of poems 1948-1985 , The Age of Man, 1988
  • Ink and water. Alechinsky , Yves Rivière, 1995
  • Poems , The Age of Man, 1998

Romans and news

  • 1950 – De Metsiers ( The Hunting of Ducks , Grasset, 1987)
  • 1962 – De verwondering ( L’Étonnement , Complexe, 1986 and Stock, 1999)
  • 1969 – Vrijdag ( Friday, day of freedom , Complex, 1980)
  • 1972 – Schaamte ( Shame , Actes Sud, 1987 and LGF, 1990)
  • 1978 – Het verlangen ( The Desire , The Age of Man – Editions de Fallois , 1990)
  • 1983 – Het verdriet van België ( The Chagrin of the Belgians , Julliard, 1985 and Seuil, coll. “Points”, 2003) tackles the provincial conformity of Flanders during the Second World War and raises the taboo of collaboration
  • 1988 – Een zachte vernieling ( A sweet destruction , by Fallois, 1988)
  • 1988 – Gilles in de nacht ( Gilles and the night , Calmann-Levy, 1995)
  • 1989 – The Love of neighbor ( collection of stories taken from De Mensen Hiernaast , 1985 and Natuurgetrouwer , 1954.1969), Maren Sell Publishers . Reissue by Seuil , collection Points, 1991
  • 1989 – De zwaardvis ( L’Espadon , by Fallois, 1989) – prize of the Black Humor Xavier Forneret
  • 1994 – Belladonna ( Belladonna , de Fallois, 1995 and LGF, 1997)
  • 1996 – De geruchten ( La Rumeur, by Fallois, 1997)
  • 1998 – Onvoltooid verleden ( The Decomposed Past , Seuil, 2000)
  • 1998 – Het laatste bed ( The Last Bed , Seuil, 2003)


  • Hugo Claus imagier ( Hugo Claus prentenmaker , 1988), pictorial works, choice of texts and translations by Marnix Vincent, texts by Freddy De Vree et al., Antwerp, Mercator fonds / Paris, Editions Albin Michel, 1988, 256 p. .

Adaptation to the screen

  • De in van de reiger adapted in 1966 by the director Fons Rademakers (French title: La Danse du Héron )
  • Le Chagrin des Belges , adapted in 1994 by Claude Goretta in three episodes of 90 minutes each


  • (1980): Vrijdag
  • (1981): Menuet , screenplay
  • (1985): The Lion of Flanders , adapted from the novel by Hendrik Conscience 6
  • (1989): Het Sacrament ( The Sacrament ) written and directed


  • ( Nl ) Michel Dupuis, Hugo Claus , reeks Monografieën over Vlaamse Letterkunde , Antwerpen; Amsterdam: De nederlandsche boekhandel, 1976 ( ISBN  9028901329 )

Notes and references

  1. RTL info : “Hugo Claus, the greatest Flemish writer is dead”.  [ Archive ]
  2. Le Soir : “Hugo Claus chose to leave”.  [ Archive ]
  3. a and b ” Hugo Claus  [ archive ] ” by Paul Gellings on the site of the encyclopaedia Universalis , accessed on 03 May 2014.
  4. ↑ Center Claus, University of Antwerp  [ archive ] .
  5. : Hugo Claus, Belgian writer  [ archive ] .
  6. ↑ See on .  [ Archive ]