Remco Campert has been the least inclined of the Dutch Fiftiers to lend himself to spectacular experimental expression: all his writing displays his characteristic resentment of pomposity and profundity. This has led him generally to wrap the serious, even angry nucleus of his work in easily absorbable, seemingly carefree language. Campert couples a talent for registering the most minute changes in the life around him with an obstinate integrity, a refusal to be led astray by any illusion whatsoever, which has manifested itself in a noticeable development toward great and greater directness and economy.
Born in the Hague in 1929, Campert’s youth was spent—as translator James Brockway has expressed it—“amid the wreckage of war and enemy occupation, a physical and mental landscape reflected in the mood—a subdued, laconic anger—of his poetry….” Campert began by publishing broadsides until he was accepted by the De Bezige Bij (Busy Bee) publishing house, a press that grew up as an underground organ of the Dutch Resistance.
Campert has published over fifteen volumes of poetry, and has also written numerous short stories and works for the theater. His novels include Het leven is verrukkulluk (1962, Life Is Lovely), a book still popular in the Netherlands, and, in English translation, No Holds Barred (1963) and The Gangster Girl (1968). He has also translated numerous books, including the French novel Zazie dans le Metro by Raymond Queneau. In 1979 he was awarded the Dutch State Prize for Literature.
BOOKS OF POETRY
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
In the Year of the Strike, translated by John Scott and Graham Martin (London: Rapp & Whiting, 1968/Chicago: Swallow Press, 1968); This Happened Everywhere: The Selected Poems of Remco Campert, trans. by Manfred Wolf (San Francisco: Androgyne Books, 1997); selected poems in The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century, Volume 6: Living Space: Poems of the Dutch Fiftiers, ed. by Peter Glassgold, revised and expanded by Douglas Messerli