Herman de Coninck

(1944 - 1997 / Mechelen, Belgium)

Biography of Herman de Coninck

Herman de Coninck (21 February 1944 – 22 May 1997) was a Belgian poet, essayist, journalist and publisher.
Herman de Coninck was born in Mechelen, Belgium, where his parents ran a Catholic bookshop. He attended the Sint-Rombouts College in Mechelen where he contributed to the school newspaper. Determined to become a writer, he studied Germanic philology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. While in Leuven he wrote for the University paper Universitas. Graduating in 1966, he took up teaching in Berchem while he lived in Heverlee, near Leuven. In 1967 he fulfilled his compulsory civilian duty in the Belgian army.
In 1970 he left teaching to become an editor of the weekly magazine HUMO, a post he held until 1983. During this period he regularly delivered interviews together with Piet Piryns. These interviews were collected and published as Woe is Woe in de Nedderlens in 1972.
Tired of interviews, he became editor-in-chief of the magazine Nieuw Wereldtijdschrift in 1983. Under his direction, NWT combined journalism and literature. Since De Coninck was less of a businessman than a writer, the magazine was not a commercial success.
While on his way to a literary colloquium with several other Flemish and Dutch poets and writers (amongst them Hugo Claus, Anna Enquist and Gerrit Komrij), Herman de Coninck collapsed in the streets of Lisbon, Portugal on May 22, 1997. He died there at the age of 53 from a heart failure. A year later, his widow Kristien Hemmerechts wrote a very personal and biographical monologue entitled Taal Zonder Mij (1998).

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Bravely she keeps up
her spirits and bust.
With a temperament like
a reinforced bra.

He too is fortified
with lots of cheerful Ha-ha-ha.
But for years now his urges
have been behind bars:
the stripes of his pyjamas.

Translation: 2008, David Colmer

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