Dutch literature lost a well-known name last week: Remco Campert died at the age of 92. The poet and writer is seen as one of the greats. But to what extent is his work still alive in 2022? And what is the probability, for example, that Life is vurrukkulluk will still be on the book lists thirty years from now?
Last Monday it was announced that Campert had died at the age of 92. He will be buried privately next Monday. But his work lives on.
Campert wrote both novels and poems and many people met him in high school. According to Jeroen Dera, assistant professor of Dutch literature, Campert’s work lends itself well to secondary education. “At first glance, his poetry and novels are not difficult. He writes lightly, ironically and accessible with a lot of humor. It reads easily, is light in style, but with a thematic heaviness.”
Campert is seen as a great source of inspiration among young poets. The much-praised Marieke Lucas Rijneveld sees him as an example. Joost Oomen is also a huge fan of the writer and poet.
“Campert lived 100 percent for poetry,” says the 31-year-old poet and smartest person-participant in NU.nl. “He found his own language and was able to link a classic sense of romanticism to everyday language. This produces an enormous expressiveness that you do not see in other poets. He knows well what he can combine, so that no disorder arises in his work. “
‘In thirty years’ time Campert will no longer be a sounding name’
Yet his classics no longer occupy a prominent place in the book lists, says Dera. In 2019, the teacher conducted extensive research on the basis of more than sixteen hundred book lists. †Life is vurrukkulluk, surely his best-known work, appeared only 65 times here. In percentage terms, about 4 percent read Campert. He is no longer regarded as the pinnacle of literature education.”
It is also noticeable in the field of poetry that Campert has lost its popularity. When asked what comes to their minds when they think of famous poets and poems, Resists van Campert (one of his most famous poems) mentioned by only 5 percent. “His work still lives on, but that seems to be decreasing,” says Dera.
“I don’t think Campert will be a big name in thirty years’ time. Today’s generation has grown up with his work, but the younger generation is less so. Teachers no longer mention his name in class and there is a good chance that this is only but less.”
Remco Campert in 2018.
Campert’s work too light-hearted?
The new generation of teachers – who play a major role in the literature education of young people – do not learn much about Campert during their training, Dera herself noticed. “During lectures on post-war literature, much attention was paid to the Vijftigers (the literary movement Campert was part of, ed.), but then there is more talk about Lucebert and Kouwenaar (other poets from that movement, ed.).”
“Several dissertations have been written about them, but not about Campert. Perhaps because his work is a bit more light-hearted and less decisive for the renewal of poetry. It is less obvious to discuss Campert’s work in lectures, so that the teachers are less involved with have to do with him. That’s why he’s less frequent during Dutch class, and that keeps the cycle going.”
“Poetry is an act of affirmation. I affirm that I am alive, that I am not living alone.”
From Poetry is an Act (1955)
‘There is no second Camper’
While Dera doubts whether Campert will still be on book lists in thirty years’ time, Oomen is sure that he will be read for a long time to come. “It is not easy to find a second Campert,” says the poet. “As young poets we talk a lot about him. If you want to be a poet, you first look at Campert.”
Even if you have no poetry ambitions, you can enjoy Campert’s work, according to Oomen. “It’s just very beautiful. It can move you and make you want to party. There is a lot of joie de vivre, but also melancholy in his work.”
uncles finds Poetry is an act Campert’s most beautiful poem. “It explains well what poetry actually is, without it being very explanatory. And Life is vurrukkulluk is great, everyone should have read that.”
“It is a shame that he is dead, more Campert poems should have been written. Lucebert once wrote about him: ‘Remco never dies.’ That remained the truth until Monday, but luckily we can always read his poems.”