Dannemark, Francis 1955–
Dannemark, Francis 1955–
PERSONAL: Born April 13, 1955, in Macquenoise, Belgium; married; children: Thomas, Lucas, Noé. Education: Studied literature at Université de Louvain.
ADDRESSES: Home—Brussels, Belgium. Office—Editions le Castor Astral, 52 rue des Grille, 93500 Pantin, France. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Editions le Castor Astral (publishing house), Pantin, France, editor. Founder, La Vigie des Minuits Polaires (literary review); organizer of literary festivals.
AWARDS, HONORS: Prix Charles Plisnier, 1991, for Choses qu'on dit la nuit entre deux villes; Prix Alexandre Vialatte, 1993, for La longue promenade avec un cheval mort; Prix Maurice Carême, 2001, for La longue course: poèmes, 1975–2000.
Heures locaales (poetry), Seghers (Paris, France), 1977.
Antartique (poetry), Le Castor Astral (Bordeaux, France), 1978.
Le voyage à plus d'un titre (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1981.
Périmètres (poetry), Dominique Bedou (Gourdon, France), 1981.
La nuit est la dernière image (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1982.
Les eaux territoriales (poetry), Dominique Bedou (Gourdon, France), 1983.
Mémoires d'un ange maladroit (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1984.
L'hiver ailleurs [and] Sans nouvelles du paradis, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1988.
Choses qu'on dit la nuit entre deux villes (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1991.
Les agrandissements du ciel en bleu (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1992.
La longue promenade avec un cheval mort (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1993.
L'incomparable promenade (poetry), Cadex (Montpelier, France), 1993.
(With Étienne Reunis) Zone de perturbations (novel), Zulma (Cadeilhan, France), 1994.
Dans les jardins mouillés entre Arras et Bruxelles (poetry), Cadex (Saussines, France), 1995.
La tombe d'un jeu d'enfant, photographs by Bernard Kerger, Cadex (Montpelier, France), 1995.
Poèmes et letters d'amour, Cadex (Montpelier, France), 1997.
La grève des archéologues (novel), Le Castor Astral (Bordeaux, France), 1998.
Qu'il pleuve (novel), Le Castor Astral (Bordeaux, France), 1998.
La traversée des grandes eaux: huile de Teddy Magnus, Cadex (Montpelier, France), 1999.
(With Réjane Peigny) Le jour se lève encore, Cadex (Saussines, France), 1999.
La longue course: poèmes, 1975–2000, Le Castor Astral (Pantin, France), 2000.
Bel amour, chambre 204, ou l'autre moitié: une romance (novella), Le Castor Astral (Pantin, France), 2001.
33 voix (poetry; in thirty-three languages), Cadex (Saussines, France), 2002.
Les petites voix (novel), Belfond (Paris, France), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Since the mid-1970s, Francis Dannemark has published numerous poetry collections and novels. He is considered part of a wave of Belgian writers, including Eugène Savitzkya, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Paul Emond, whose styles are drawn from a variety of linguistic origins, atmospheres, and altered realities. Dannemark has readers all over the world and his work has achieved considerable renown within French literature.
Dannemark's Les agrandissements du ciel en bleu is a semi-autobiographical novel set in Belgium. Belgian writers at the end of the twentieth century were known for their strong feelings of aversion, fatalism, and despair toward their own country, in which they believed indifference smothered thought. Dannemark expresses these same sentiments in his novel, while at the same time offering a note of hope for the future. In the story the protagonist, Theo returns to Brussels after a long absence, encounters old friends who have become bourgeois and dull, and then rediscovers himself in a jazz café. American jazz becomes his salvation. He laments that Belgium is dull and that many of its citizens have nervous problems, but he decides that it is not all bad—after all, Belgium has twenty different breads, which he feels is worth something—and that he will return to the woman he formerly loved. Dannemark fills the book with wit and wisdom, according to reviewers, a technique World Literature Today critic Judith L. Greenberg found somewhat tedious; she commented, for instance, on the inclusion of sayings observed on bumper stickers and T-shirts, such as "Don't follow me, I'm lost too." Morsels of popular culture also fill the book, including quotes from writers and movie stars such as Ingrid Bergman, and Dannemark features landscapes that remind him of artists' paintings. The concluding sentiment of the novel, according to Greenberg, is that "the only way to avoid more or less constant despair is to live each day as an entire world and to love someone."
Dannemark is suspicious of books about events or books founded on arguments that are too strong. He claims that each of his novels is associated very closely with a certain group of his poems. For him, the tie between the two is indispensable: poetry and prose are two approaches to the same thing, and pairing them results in a family of books very solidly joined together. Many of his works have titles involving water and rain, such as Qu'il pleuve, Dans les jardins mouillés entre Arras et Bruxelles, and Les eaux territoriales, while La grève des archéologues is set in the waters of Venice. Dannemark has said that he only noticed this commonality after he had written and titled his works, but that it goes along with his habitual conjoining of poetry and prose written on similar themes.
Living and writing in Belgium, Dannemark has published most of his books in France, including at publisher Le Castor Astral, where he works as an editor. This is in keeping with the typical practice of Belgian writers, who have by and large avoided claiming a national identity in favor of exposing their books to more readers by publishing in Paris instead of in their homeland. Some eighty percent of Belgian writers choose to have their work published in France; Jean-Jacques Brochier, editor of Magazine littéraire, once joked that half of all French authors in the 1990s were Belgian, referring to Dannemark, as well as such writers as Conrad Detrez, Dominique Rolin, and Hergé, the creator of Tintin. Dannemark has claimed that it took him a long time to accept that he is a writer. For years he refused to travel to Paris to meet in person with his own editor, finally making the trip for the first time after his fourth novel. He eventually came to terms with his career by likening being a writer to having blue eyes, a fact of life that must merely be accepted because it cannot be changed.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
World Literature Today, autumn, 1992, Judith L. Greenberg, review of Les agrandissements du ciel en bleu, p. 688.
Cineature, http://cineature.lasecte.com/ (August 21, 2001), "Francis Dannemark."
FNAC, http://www.fnac.fr/ (August 21, 2001), interview with Francis Dannemark.
Frank 15 Online: Belgium, http://www.gyoza.com/ (August 21, 2001), Jean-Luc Outers, "Belgium: A Literature Apart."