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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Even Now

Hugo Claus

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To purchase Even Now

Title: Even Now
Author: Hugo Claus
Genre: Poetry
Written: (Eng. 2013)
Length: 245 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Even Now - US
Even Now - UK
Even Now - Canada
Even Now - India
  • Selected from collections published between 1948 and 2004
  • Translated by David Colmer
  • With an Afterword by Cees Nooteboom

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Our Assessment:

B+ : only a selection, but career-spanning and quite impressive

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Quarterly Conversation . Fall/2013 Jan Steyn

  From the Reviews:
  • "Colmer has done a remarkable job of adapting his approach for Claus’s various styles, showing restraint in not chasing down every pun, internal rhyme or assonance when translating most of Claus’s free verse, emphasizing the most obvious and immediate sense when that is what’s most important. He must equally be commended for changing this approach when Claus begins to rhyme, use fixed meter or become playful with language itself, allowing himself the freedom in English to match the playfulness of the Dutch. (...) Inevitably, the picture we get of Claus from Even Now is slightly skewed. (...) Even Now cannot do full justice to scope of Claus’s achievement in little more than two hundred pages, but it comes closer to plotting his political, thematic, ethical, and stylistic range than anything to appear before in the English language." - Jan Steyn, The Quarterly Conversation

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Even Now is a selection of Hugo Claus' poetry in English translation, culled from some twenty-odd Dutch volumes published between 1948 and 2004. The prolific author, whose collected poems in Dutch come to almost 1500 pages, was also an accomplished novelist and dramatist; too little of his work has been translated (much less remains available), but Even Now offers a good introduction to Claus as poet.
       In the sending-off of 'Envoi' (from Alibi (1985)), Claus suggests:

My poems aren't a classic fuck,
they're vulgar babble or all too noble bluster.
       Spanning more than five decades, from the teenage 'For the Poet Antonin Artaud' to the creepy 'Rehearsal' with the old man preparing for euthanasia ("I wish I was dead", he explains, before going through the chemical cocktail that would eventually be used in ending his life), there is considerable and impressive variety here. The collection covers it all, giving a good overview of Claus' poetry, though the in some cases very isolated examples -- a single poem from a collection -- can make for rushed snapshot impressions: it's a lot of poet to compress into these pages.
       'Message to the Population' is a longer declamatory 'public' poem -- as much political statement as poem -- but he also has a go at everything from sonnets to the "four-lined stanzas [...] based on a selection from the Sanskrit poem of the Chaurapanchasika" that make up the title-sequence.
       There's a good deal of the sensual here, too, Claus living up to his reputation even in his verse: "Her slit is my sign", he suggests, drawn always to: "her vertical smile" -- though elsewhere he describes himself as, for example: "like Mickey Spillane, weathered out of my own desires".
       If the flow and shifts are more abrupt than in the original, complete collections, there are nevertheless also many pieces that easily stand entirely on their own. '(Translation)' -- in which Claus explains that he: "Translated Borges's Tango today" -- is one of them, a lovely bit on the frustrations of translation that nicely plays with the difficulty of rendering both Borges' poem as well as the general sense of the tango into Flemish:
Jesus !
It creaks in every joint, it waddles,
the dirge of a dance.
       Claus is no novelist who just dabbled in poetry; he is a major writer in both genres. Published in fits and spurts in English translation -- with editions disappearing out of print before new works are made available -- Claus has never gotten the foothold he deserves in English. While unlikely to spur translations of the full collections, Even Now at least serves as a sturdy foundation presenting Claus the poet to English-speaking audiences, and is certainly a welcome -- and, in the absence of anything more complete on the horizon, essential -- volume.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 October 2013

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Even Now: Reviews: Hugo Claus: Other books by Hugo Claus under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Belgian author Hugo Claus lived 1929 to 2008.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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