Benno Barnard (1954) originates from Amsterdam, but has lived in Belgium for over thirty years. He made his debut in 1981 with a volume of cerebral romantic poetry. His later collections – influenced by the English poets of the interwar period – are more sober in tone and testify to a historical pessimism; they contain both series of longer poems and mini-epics.
After reworking John Dryden’s classical All for Love in Dutch (Liefdeswoede, 1993), he wrote four verse dramas of his own; Mevrouw Appelfeld (2007) is his first prose work for the theatre.
Barnard’s other prose works are a modernistic mixture of essay, narrative, polemic and autobiography, as in the ‘genealogical autobiography’ Eeuwrest(Remnant of a Century, 2001).
In 2006 he published both the anthology Het tongbotje, gedichten 1981-2005 (The Tongue Bone, Poems 1981-2005), severely selective but expanded with much new poetry, and the collection Dichters van het Avondland (Poets of the West), in which Barnard presents a history of the twentieth century through the work of ten European poets.
The question of the identity of the post-war European is the driving force behind his work, in which he often uses 'the Belgian model’ as an ideal, referring to the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. Genres and styles of language serve as different ways of approaching the subject. The backdrop to all this is European history and the role of Judaic philosophy in it; central to Barnard’s work is the Talmudic conviction that ‘the secret of redemption’ is memory.
Benno Barnard has received various important literary prizes and is a welcome visitor at international poetry festivals. His translations include poems by Emiel Verhaeren, W.H. Auden, Paul Celan and Eva Runefelt. Books by him have been translated into French, Czech, Hungarian, Serbo-Croat and Turkish.