Carl Barkman: diplomat, sinologist, author

Carl Barkman

Born in Amsterdam in 1919, Carl Barkman studied Sinology at the University of Leiden, Netherlands, with Russian as a subsidiary subject. He wrote a doctoral thesis The Return of the Torghuts from Russia to China, which was published in 1955 in Hong Kong (Journal of Oriental Studies). In 1945 he joined the Netherlands foreign service, in which he served in China and such posts as Moscow, Paris, Jakarta, The Hague (Director, European Department), and, as Ambassador in Athens, Tokyo and Seoul, and NATO in Brussels. He has always been a keen 'China-watcher' and student of Russian affairs, even when his duties took him to other countries. His official activities have been evenly divided between Europe (or NATO) and Asia.

In The Hague he took an active part in the Dutch opposition, led by Dr Luns, against De Gaulle's plan for a political union of the six E.C.-countries, with the exclusion of the U.K., and in the campaign for British membership.

He served in 1991 as Vice-Chairman of the European Conference on Yugoslavia in The Hague under Lord Carrington. But after his retirement in 1981 he has devoted himself mainly to historical research and literary activities.

Carl Barkman wrote three books originally in English (only one of which – Ambassador in Athens, The Merlin Press, London, 1989 - was published in that language). The other two are: (1) The Mandate, about the life of a prince of the Volga Mongols in the 18th century, published in Dutch in Holland under the title Asaray, Nomade tussen Rusland en China, and in Russian in Elista (Kalmykia) as Asaray – Nakaz Bogov in the Kalmyk literary journal Teegin gerl (Svet v stepi = Light in the Steppe) 2004-2005, and (2) The Twisting Dragon, a novel about China under Mao Zedong (in Dutch: Drakendans). In the Netherlands there appeared, in addition to those mentioned above, a political journal on the restoration of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands (Bestemming Jakarta - 'Destination Jakarta' and a biography of Dr. R.H. van Gulik, the famous sinologist, calligrapher, author of Chinese detective novels (the Judge Dee series) and diplomat (Een Man van Drie Levens together with Mrs. H. de Vries-van der Hoeven; its French translation, Les Trois Vies de Robert Van Gulik, was published in Paris in 1997 (Christian Bourgois).

Carl Barkman passed away on 17 October in Zeist (The Netherlands).