Benno Barnard 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.
In 2009, Barnard published his personal reflections on his lifelong fascination for the United Kingdom in the book of essays Een vage buitenlander (A Vague Foreigner).
Een engel van Rossetti, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1981
Klein Rozendaal, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1983
Het meer in mij, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1986
Uitgesteld paradijs, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1987
Het gat in de wereld, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1993
Tijdgenoten, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1994
De schipbreukeling, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1996
Door God bij Europa verwekt, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1996
Het mens, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1996
Het ondermaanse, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1998
Een hiernamaals, Atlas, Amsterdam, 1999
Eeuwrest, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2001
Getierd hebben de doden, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2003
Het tongbotje, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2006
Dichters van het avondland, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2006
Mevrouw Appelfeld, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2007
Een vage buitenlander, Atlas, Amsterdam, 2009
Theater, Sartr, Sarajevo, 1999
Díra do sveta, Cesky Spisovatel, Prague, 1997
Le naufrage , Le Castor Astral, Bordeaux, 2003
Fragments d'un siècle: une autobiographie généalogique, Le Castor Astral, Bordeaux, 2005
La créature, Le Castor Astral, Bordeaux, 2007
Lyukas világ, Széphalom, Bupdapest, 1997
A hajótörött, Széphalom, Budapest, 2004
Bir Sanskrit, Piya, Istanbul, 1998
Audiofiles and translations of Barnard’s poetry on Lyrikline
A podcast, read by the author himself, of the story “The Hanger”
The author’s page on the Digital Library of Dutch Literature