Ernest Claes (1885-1968), the popular Flemish novelist and short-story writer, was born in Zichem. He sometimes also wrote in German. The novel that made his reputation, “De Witte” (Whitey - 1920), is a regional novel about a playful, prankish youngster. The partly autobiographical tale was made into a film in 1934.
Claes’s writings were varied in subject. Animals and children were treated in such works as “Herman Coene” (1925-1930), “Kiki” (1925) and “Floere het fluwijn” (Floere the Polecat - 1950). World War I was the topic of “Namen 1914” in 1916. “De fanfare ‘De Sint-Jans-vrienden’” (The Fanfare ‘The Friends of St John’” - 1924) and “Het leven en de dood van Victalis van Gille” (The Life and Death of Victalis van Gille - 1951) describe village life and village folk.
His tone, usually kindly, was occasionally judgemental, as in “De vulgaire geschiedenis van Charelke Dop” (The Ignoble History of Charelke Dop - 1924), a bitter and cutting tale of a war profiteer, and “Clementine” (1940), the story of a dishonest servant girl. Claes died in Ukkel on 2 September 1968.