Hugo Claus

A documentary by Tonko Dop

Of course, nothing but good should be said of the dead. But not many writers will have been praised to the sky like Hugo Claus († 19-3-2008) was. The whole of Belgium mourned him collectively, from the deeply saddened Prime Minister to the lady behind the snack counter on the corner of the street. Claus exceeded Famous Belgians like Brel, Hergé and Magritte. No less in Holland: The Great Three (writers Hermans, Reve and Mulisch) became, with Claus, The Great Four.

Claus left an impressive oeuvre of over 150 (!) books, but there’s much more. Calling Hugo Claus a versatile artist is an understatement: he could do practically anything. But where in the flood of commemorations did we hear about Hugo the painter, the scriptwriter, the comics writer, the song writer, the film director, the plastic artist, the mediapersonality avant-la-lettre, the librettist, the womanizer, the pub-crawler, the boxer, and not least of all: Hugo almost the Nobel prize winner?

What is artistic value of his 20 film scripts, the 4 films he directed, his many paintings, the chansons he wrote for Liesbeth List? Claus: “How can you enjoy a good entrecôte if you don’t know the taste of meatballs? How can you fuck a beautiful women if you haven’t slept with an one-eyed hunchback? I distrust every book, every masterpiece, if it doesn’t have an eye for vulgarity.”