Biography


Andreas Burnier


Pen name of Catharina Irma Dessaur

Born 3 July, 1931 in The Hague

Died 18 September, 2002 in Amsterdam

 

Childhood
Andreas Burnier was born as Catharina Irma Dessaur in a Liberal Jewish family in The Hague. During World War II she was in hiding under the name Ronny van Dijk at sixteen different addresses from 1942 to 1945, separated from her parents. She described her experiences during the war in the novel Het Jongensuur (‘Boys’ Hour’, 1969). 

 

Education
After the war she attended high school in The Hague. She started studying Medicine and Philosophy in 1949 at the University of Amsterdam. She did not graduate in either of these fields. She married the publisher J.E. Zeijlmans van Emmichoven (son of anthroposophy pioneer Willem Zeijlmans van Emmichoven in The Netherlands) in 1953. They had a son and a daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 1961, after which Burnier returned to her studies. This time she took Philosophy at the University of Leyden. She graduated with honors and continued to write her Ph.D. in Criminology under the guidance of Professor Dr. W. Nagel (pen name: J.B. Charles). During that period she met her first female lover with whom she had a relationship that lasted for seventeen years.

 

Debut
In 1965, while she was still a student at Leyden University, the literary magazine Tirade published her first story, titled Verschrikkingen van het Noorden (‘Horrors of the North’). In the same year her debut adventure novel Een tevreden lach (‘A Contented Smile’) was published, in which she wrote about her homosexuality in a then unprecedented matter-of-course way. This made her one of the trailblazers of gay emancipation.  

 

Feminism
Burnier also was an important trailblazer of the second feminist wave. In the late 1960s she already wrote about the bad fortune to be born in a female body and the cultural disdain that came with it. The originality of her feminist thought often led to conflicts with her sisters in the women’s movement.

 

Criminology
Burnier was Professor of Criminology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen from 1973 through 1988. During this time she published novels, essays, letters and articles and often was involved in important debates about society. Her opinions often led to fierce polemics. Her polemical articles against legalizing euthanasia played an important role in the social discourse about this subject that began in 1986.  

 

Jewish sense of life
Because of her experiences during the Second World War, Burnier was alienated from her Jewish background for many years. But toward the end of the 1980s this changed into a passionate interest which led to her return to Judaism. Until then, her novel Het jongensuur (‘Boys’ Hour’), about her time in hiding during the Second World War, was the only book that explicitly referred to her Jewish background. In het last novel, published in 1997, De wereld is van glas (‘The world is made of glass’) Judaism is the main subject.

Burnier’s work is about more than the themes that were just mentioned. It is steeped in her view of life, which she described in her article Het Joodse levensgevoel (‘The Jewish Sense of Life’): “If I had to label myself, I would say I belong to the spiritual seekers and workers among humanity. With little steps forward and sometimes great falls down, I try to get, or stay, in contact with the Unnameable to which all religions and esoteric systems refer, each in its own way and on its own level. The goal of the human being who chooses this path, is to be able to eventually ‘live in two world’ with her consciousness and let others share in the light she experiences this way.”

Andreas Burnier promoted Jewish learning (‘lernen’) with boundless energy, at first by organizing private study groups. During the last years of her life she worked very hard to help realize a Jewish Study Center for adults. She lived to see the foundation of Jewish Educational Center Crescas in 1999. The center is named for the 14th century chacham (scholar) Chasdai ben Awraham Crescas, one of Burnier’s teachers of Judaism.l

Burnier died in 2002 at the age of 71 from a brain haemorrhage. She was buried at the Liberal Jewish Cemetary in the village of Hoofddorp near Amsterdam. From 1983 through the end of her life she lived with her beloved Ineke/Daniel van Mourik (editor, writer, librarian at the Institute for Women’s History ‘Aletta’ in Amsterdam en steward of Burnier’s literary heritage).  

 

Reissues
After her death, her publishing house Augustus published some reissues of Burnier’s work:

Een gevaar dat de ziel in wil (‘A Danger that tries to get into the soul’), a selection of the author’s essays and some important interviews with Burnier; three novels in one volume: Het jongensuur (‘Boys’ Hour’), De litteraire salon (‘The Literary Salon’) and De trein naar Tarascon (‘The Train to Tarascon’); and her only book of poems Na de laatste keer (‘After the Final Time’).

In november 2015 an anthology of Jewish essays was published: Ruiter in de wolken, Joodse essays en artikelen 1990-2002 (‘Rider in the Clouds, Jewish essays and articles 1990-2002’) compiled and edited by Manja Ressler and Daniel van Mourik. 

 

Bibliography
Een tevreden lach (novel 1965)

De verschrikkingen van het Noorden (short stories 1967)

Het jongensuur (novel 1969)

De huilende libertijn (novel 1970)

Wetenschap tussen cultuur en tegencultuur (oration 1974 as C.I. Dessaur)

Poëziejongens en het gezelschap van geleerde vrouwen (essays 1974)

De reis naar Kithira (novel 1976)

De zwembadmentaliteit (essays 1979) 

De zwembadmentaliteit ebook (also as free PDF download)

Na de laatste keer (poems 1981)

De droom der rede: het mensbeeld in de sociale wetenschappen: een poging tot criminosofie (essays 1982 as C.I. Dessaur)

De litteraire salon (novel 1983) 

De litteraire salon ebook (also as free PDF download)

De trein naar Tarascon (novel 1986)

Essays 1965-1985 (1985)

Belletrie 1965-1981 (1985)

Gesprekken in de nacht (1987)

De rondgang der gevangenen: een essay over goed en kwaad, in de vorm van zeven brieven aan de Platoclub. (essays 1987 as C.I. Dessaur)

Mystiek en magie in de literatuur (essays 1988)

De achtste scheppingsdag: essays 1987-1990)

De wereld is van glas (novel 1997)

En al die onaangenaamheden omdat je geen man bent: brieven van een jonge schilderes rond 1900 / Sanne Bruinier uitg. door Andreas Burnier en Caroline van Tuyll van Serooskerken (1993)

Een gevaar dat de ziel in wil. Essays, brieven en interviews 1965-2002. Collected and edited by Ineke van Mourik and Chris Rutenfrans. (essays 2003)

Three novels in one volume: Het jongensuur, De litteraire salon, De trein naar Tarascon. (2003)

Na de laatste keer. Revised edition.Collected by Ineke van Mourik, Maaike Meijer and Jonne Linschoten. (poems 2004)

Ruiter in de wolken. Joodse essays 1990-2002. Collected and edited by Manja Ressler en Daniel van Mourik. (2015)

 

Biography
Elisabeth Lockhorn, Andreas Burnier: Metselaar van de wereld. (biography 2015)

 

Translations
Andreas Burnier, Knabenzeit. Übersetzung Waltraud Hüsmert. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2016

Knabenzeit. Übersetzung Waltraud Hüsmert, Twenne Verlag, Berlin 1993

Rendezvous bei Stella Artois (Een tevreden lach), Übersetzung Waltraud Hüsmert, Twenne Verlag Berlin 1994

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