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The World as a Labyrinth - Gustav René Hocke and the Fantastic Art Tradition

Gustav René Hocke

The Biographer of the Grotesque

Hocke was born in Brussels in March 1908, his parents being Josef Hocke, a German businessman, and Anna De Nèves, the daughter of a Belgian artist. While the First World War was raging outside, young Gustav René spent much of his time in his grandfather’s light-flooded studio. It was Gustave De Nèves, a Frenchman by birth, who familiarized him with the world of art.
When the boy was eleven, however, the Hockes’ years of upper middle-class affluence came to an end. Because a German family was no longer welcome in Brussels after the First World War, they were expelled. Anna and her two sons moved to Viersen in the Rhineland. Hocke’s memoirs embody an impressive account of their grotesque train journey—undertaken in the company of refugees and mutilés de guerre—across a war-torn Europe that seemed to be insurmountably divided.