United in their considerable desire for drink and cards, Jake, an overweight, slow-witted yet gentle man, and dark, brooding Michel have become fixtures at The Unicorn, a local Belgian watering hole. Suddenly aware that their wants have outgrown the narrow confines of their village, and of the Old World, these sympathetic rogues impulsively set out for the land of silk and money: Las Vegas, Nevada. While Jake and Michel pursue their exploits of satiation under the neon Day-Glo of 1970s America, their relatives and friends contend with sinister business of their own. Two forms of desire go afoul of each other, revealing the dark menace lurking behind the facade of glitter and glamour in the New World, and of friendship and innocence in the Old World. Melding humor with rich characterization and language, Hugo Claus conveys the precariousness of our beliefs and the grotesque and meaningful forms that human desire can assume in this frightening, ribald, and gripping novel.
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Dutch
This cross-continental tale of Belgian gamblers seeking their fortunes in Las Vegas is the latest (1994) novel from the internationally acclaimed Flemish author of The Sorrow of Belgium (1990) and The Swordfish (p. 239). It's a fragmented story that begins in a bar called ``The Unicorn,'' whose regulars include Claus's unnamed narrator and a group of cronies burdened with colorful monikers (Felix the Cat, Rev'em-up Red, and so forth) who seem to have been transplanted to Europe from Cannery Row. Two of them, dark, brooding (half- Portuguese) Michel and enormously overweight Jake, impulsively light out for America, first to Los Angeles, then eastward to Vegas and the gaming tables. As the keen, ferretlike Michel and ``the sluggish, sleeping giant'' who accompanies him make their way through the various temptations offered by their newfound land, Claus builds a hilarious picture of southwestern American neon splendor (several abrasive hookers make vivid cameo appearances, and a Christian fundamentalist rancher takes Jake and Michel to a revival meeting that features an aging, foulmouthed Jerry Lee Lewis). These sequences are variously reminiscent of the inspired demolitions of trash-culture Americana accomplished decades ago by Evelyn Waugh and Nabokov, as well as Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. But there's more to the novel: sporadic returns back to Belgium, where the Unicorn's denizens comment on their missing buddies and Jake's abandoned wife struggles to tend their brain-damaged daughter; and occasional appearances by the ghost of Rickabone, their late wastrel companion, who seems to represent his survivors' darker side. Arresting conceptions and vigorous writing abound, but- -except for an inchoate pattern of ironical allusions to the biblical Jacob (who, unlike his namesake, amassed great wealth and experienced a vision of eternity)--none of this adds up to a coherent novel. The Sorrow of Belgium was almost a masterpiece. Desire is a curiosity that reads like Hugo Claus's American Notes, not yet reshaped into fiction. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Book Description Penguin Books, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0140255389
Book Description Penguin Books, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Open market ed. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0140255389
Book Description Penguin Books, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110140255389