November 28, 2008

J. Bernlef [Hendrik Marsman]

J. Bernlef [Hendrik Marsman][Netherlands]

Born Hendrik Marsman in St. Pancras, Netherlands in 1937, Bernlef (a pen name to which he added the first initial to separate himself from an earlier Dutch author), made his literary debut with Kokkels (Cockles) in 1960. At first his use of language led to protest by critics and readers, but soon his many works of poetry, fiction, plays, and essays brought him renown, and his books became compulsory reading in the schools.

Among his many books of poetry are Ben even weg (1965, Back in a Minute), Bermtoerisme (1968, Wayside Tourism), Zwijgende man (1976, Silent Man), and Gedichten 1960-1970 (Poems 1960-1970) published in 1978.

In 1994 Bernlef received the P. C. Hooft Prize for his writing, one of the most coveted of Dutch literary awards. Having won the Constantijn Huygens Award for prose writing, Bernlef was asked by journalists which award was of most importance to him: “Compare my work,” he responded, “to that of a painter who makes drawings. The drawing is a quicker medium more suited to putting down first impressions. With prose you always have to take structural mattes into account. There’s more planning involved in writing a novel. Not so with poetry. I come up with and invent things through poetry, because it is more direct, like a sketch. For me poetry is the seed from which my other work has sprung.”

Bernlef is also a noted translator, having brought the work of Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore—as well as others—into Dutch.

Among his many works of fiction are Hersenschimmen (1984), Publiek geheim (1987), De witte stad (1992), Eclips (1993), and Boy (2000), the last of which won the Libris Literatuur Prijs.


Kokkels (Amsterdam: Querido, 1960); Morene (Amsterdam: Querido, 1961); Dit verheugd verval (Amsterdam: Querido, 1963); Ben even weg (Amsterdam: Querido, 1965); De schoenen van de dirigent en twee andere teksten (Amsterdam: Querido, 1966); Bermtoerisme (Amsterdam: Querido, 1968); Het testament van De Vliegende Hollander, gevonden op een vliegveld en bevatatende 16 liederen (Amsterdam: Querido, 1969); Hoe wit kijkt een Eskimo (Amsterdam: Querido, 1970); Grensgeval (Amsterdam: Querido, 1972); Brits (Amsterdam: Querido, 1974); Zwijgende man (Amsterdam: Querido, 1976); Gedichten 1960-1970 (Amsterdam: Querido, 1971); Stilleven (Amsterdam: Querido, 1979); De kunst van het verliezen (Amsterdam: Querido, 1980); Alles teruggevonden, niets bewaard (Amsterdam: Querido, 1982); Winterwegen (Amsterdam: Querido, 1983); Verschrijvingen (Amsterdam: Querido, 1985); Wolftoon (Amsterdam: Querido, 1986); Verzwegen visioen: tombe voor Pieter Janszoon Saenredam (Bedum: Exponent, 1988); Gedichten 1970-1980 (Amsterdam: Querido, 1988); Geestgronden (Amsterdam: Querido, 1988); De noodzakelijke engel (Amsterdam: Querido, 1990); Voor eigen rekening: zestien kwatrijnen (Landgraaf: Herik, 1992); Niemand wint (Amsterdam: Querido, 1992); Vreemde wil (Amsterdam: Querido, 1994); Achter de rug: gedichten 1960-1990 (Amsterdam: Querido, 1997); Aambeeld (Amsterdam: Querido, 1998); Bagatellen voor een landschap (Amsterdam: Querido, 2001); Hetzelfde anders (Zutphen: De Kolenpers, 2003)

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