As if in a Dream
A lyrical novel by the celebrated poet and author, master of mirth and melancholy
Throughout his career, Remco Campert has demonstrated an unprecedented versatility, which has always earned him the appreciation of a wide range of readers. Starting out as a poet, he was part of the Vijftig movement in the 1950s, which, in a short period, brought new, revolutionary zeal to Dutch poetry. Campert gained recognition in 1976 when he received the most important Dutch language literary prize, the P.C. Hooft Prize, for his collected poems.
Campert has also been active, right from the start, as a prose writer. His success lies in the light-hearted, humorous, but precise narrative style with which he presents his tragicomic characters in their struggle with the duality of dream and reality. All keep themselves somewhat apart from the social events that they attempt, by trial and error, to control, which makes every one of them likeable. Campert is able to move the reader to empathy like few other authors.
Who better than a poet to unfold his vision of the world around us from such a position? In his most recent novella, Remco Campert portrays himself as a writer who appears to be letting life slip through his fingers. The political involvement that his girlfriend expects of him is at odds with his writing, which cannot bear so much realism and takes place outside him, as if in a dream. He remarks on the creation of his poetry: ‘You live in a glow, but once the poem is completed, that glow is extinguished. The poem is at its most beautiful when it is nearing completion’. This also applies to his infatuations. He even gives up the love of his teenage years once he has finally won her. Literature, love, reality and political involvement – a combination that has proved to conceal too many potholes for many writers, but not for Campert, whose effective description of these large issues appears effortless.