Bernard Kops Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Bernard Kops’s work is intensely autobiographical. Details of his early life may be found in The World Is a Wedding. He was born in Stepney in the East End of London in 1926. His father was a Dutch Jewish immigrant cobbler who came to London’s East End in 1904, and his mother was born in London of Dutch Jewish parents. Kops was the youngest of a family of four sisters and two brothers. Although his family was very poor, Kops grew up in an intense, colorful, and cosmopolitan environment. The English fascist demonstrations and counter-demonstrations of the late 1930’s in the East End of London provided a personal background for the awareness of anti-Semitism that pervades Kops’s work.

Kops left school when he was only thirteen to earn a living as best he could—as a docker, chef, salesman, waiter, liftman, and barrow boy, selling books in street markets. Already writing and reading intensely, he was particularly moved by Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra (pr., pb. 1931) and its depiction of family conflicts and fantasy states. T. S. Eliot was another early literary influence, from whom Kops gained insight into the theatrical use of popular songs. The foundations for Kops’s dramatic methodology were formed at the evening drama classes he attended at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End.

During World War II, Kops’s family moved around England in frequent evacuations and return trips to the badly blitzed...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bernard Kops was born in Stepney, a Jewish immigrant area in the East End of London, to a Dutch-Jewish immigrant cobbler and a Dutch-Jewish mother. He was the youngest of four sisters and two brothers. Among the experiences that found their way into his work were his growing up in an intense and cosmopolitan (yet impoverished) environment, Fascist demonstrations and counterdemonstrations of the pre-World War II period, life in wartime London, and cultural (rather than religious) Jewishness. In Kops’s adolescent years during World War II, his family moved around England attempting to avoid the German bombing of London.

After 1945, Kops acted in repertory theater and traveled in France, Spain, and Tangier. His mother’s death in 1951 deeply affected him, and he was committed to a psychiatric hospital; these experiences were recorded in his 1959 narrative poem An Anemone for Antigone. Kops’s concern with mental states is found in his novel On Margate Sands, a study of five former psychiatric hospital patients. His writing is inhabited by frenetic characters plagued by extreme mood changes. His central preoccupations are the borderlines between sanity and insanity, dreams and psychiatric disturbance, and creativity and madness.

Stability came into Kops’s life with his meeting Erica Gordon, whom he married in 1956. They had four children. Beginning in the 1950’s, Kops made his living as a professional writer; he also taught and served as a writer-in-residence. Theatrical writing has been Kops’s main form. The early autobiographical play The Hamlet of Stepney...

(The entire section is 662 words.)