The National Bank of Belgium has issued (3rd July) new collector coins which are in tribute to one of the country’s most acclaimed writers in recent years, who was recognised by the international community as a potential Nobel prize recipient for literature. Hugo Maurice Julien Claus (1929–2008) was born on the 5th April in the Flanders city of Bruges, to Jozef and Germaine Van der Linden Claus. Young Hugo dropped out of school at age 15, as he was not on good terms with his family, and left home soon after the war, supporting himself by working in menial jobs — including at a sugar factory. By the time he reached the age of 18, his first body of work was published, which was a collection of poems called simply “Short Series,” and denounced the constraints of bourgeois Flemish society. He would gain significant notoriety in the 1960s with his works The Wonderment and About Deedee, which touched on strained family relations and repressed sexual orientation.
His novel entitled The Sorrow of Belgium, written in 1983, provided Claus with his greatest level of notoriety. Set in the 1940s during the Nazi occupation of Belgium, the novel centres around a fictional teenager named Louis Seynaeve. The novel examined the moral contradictions many Belgians were faced with during and after the ordeal and compelled the country to face the conditions of war, including the act of collaboration, which was a subject hardly ever discussed. The story was said to resemble Claus’s own experiences during the war, and, like himself, the protagonist hated going to a Roman Catholic boarding school and ended up rebelling against authority figures — particularly his father. Claus would remain a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature in the 1990s for his work The Sorrow of Belgium, though he was never recognised with this honour.
Toward the end of his career, Claus authored more than 20 novels, more than 60 plays, several thousand poems, and was also a highly regarded painter and stage director. In 1962, he received great acclaim for his play entitled “Sugar,” which depicted the conditions of menial labour he had experienced as a young teenager in a sugar factory.
Hugo Claus died on the 19th March 2008, at the age of 78 at the Middelheim Hospital in Antwerp, and was survived by his wife Veerle de Wit. It was disclosed that Claus was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but his death by euthanasia, a legal option for terminally ill patients in Belgium, led to considerable controversy.
The coins are produced by the Royal Dutch Mint, under licensing by the *Royal Mint of Belgium on behalf of the National Bank of Belgium. The obverse depicts the language virtuoso in profile facing to the right, complete with his characteristic scarf, along with the book The Sadness of Belgium placed to the right of the portrait. The text HUGO CLAUS is placed along the upper right edge and the commemorative years 2008 and 2018, in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the author’s death, are placed above the replica open book.
The reverse includes a map of the current members of the European Union and the text BELGIQUE BELGIE BELGIEN along the edge from the left, the denomination of 25 EURO, and the year of issue are placed to the right of the map along with the mintmark of the Royal Belgian Mint.
|3.11 g||18 mm||Proof||
Each coin is individually encapsulated and presented in a custom branded Royal Belgian Mint case and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. For additional information on this coin and others issued by the National Bank of Belgium, please visit their website.
*All Belgian circulation and collector coins are produced by the Royal Dutch Mint under the trademark name of Herdenkingsmunten.be/Piecescommemoratives.be and use the logo of the Royal Mint of Belgium.