Two exciting new arrivals came through the letterbox this week…
I recently received a package in the post from Granta, with Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd and Sidewalks, translated by Christina MacSweeney. Cees Nooteboom wrote an introduction to Sidewalks, which I translated. Sidewalks is a beautiful little book, which I’ve now read in the original and in the Dutch and English translations, and it was a delight every time. A recommended title for anyone who enjoys Brodsky and fine writing.
The Dutch Foundation for Literature and the Flemish Literature Fund have put together two fantastic publications this year to showcase the best of comic writers and artists from the Low Countries. I’m very pleased to have been involved with the translation of these projects, as it gave me a sneak preview of the titles that were presented to visitors to this year’s comics festival in Angoulême.
I’m very pleased that Enchanted Lion Books in Brooklyn have recently published my translation of Truus Matti’s fine story Mister Orange, about a young boy, Linus, and his friendship with the artist Mondrian. Set against the backdrop of WWII, it’s a wonderful tale about art and life and about growing up and finding your place in the world.
There have already been a number of positive reviews of the book, and I think Truus’s tale deserves to find a large audience among younger readers.
Kirkus described the book as “a poignant story of art, growth and loss”.
Library Review gave it a “highly recommended” and called the book “a well-written, quick read about family & friendship”.
Carolyn Phelan in Booklist noted that “children’s novels translated from other languages are rare in the U.S., but even more uncommon are those with an American setting. A Dutch writer whose Departure Time (2010) was a Batchelder Honor Book, Matti offers a compact middle-grade novel that is involving and informative. Written with clarity and simplicity, this accessible book features deftly drawn characters and a nuanced view of family life on the American home front, as well as insights into Mondrian’s personality and paintings. An original.”
Publishers Weekly also reviewed Mister Orange, saying that Matti “draws an exceptionally sensitive portrait of introspective Linus and his understanding of what war is and what it does to its victims” and describing the story as “served well by Watkinson’s graceful translation”, which was very nice to hear. They finish by saying, “It’s a quiet novel, but a deeply touching one.”
Well done, Truus Matti, Enchanted Lion and illustrator Jenni Desmond. This is definitely a recommended read!
Author: Matti, Truus
Translator: Watkinson, Laura
Publisher:Enchanted Lion Books
Price (Hardcover): $16.95
Publication Date: January 14, 2013
ISBN (Hardcover): 978-1-59270-123-0
The international comics festival in Angoulême will be taking place again in Jan-Feb 2013 and comics and graphic novels from Flanders and the Netherlands will be well represented. Graphic novelist Brecht Evens is curating La Boîte à Gand, an exhibition of work by talented young Flemish comic artists. There are plenty of powerful stories coming from the Low Countries in the form of graphic novels right now, such as Tim Enthoven’s graphically stunning binnenskamers and Judith Vanistendael’s When David Lost His Voice, a moving account of a dying man and his relationship with his family. This book has already received plenty of international attention and the author is also taking part in the High Impact tour in January 2013, which will see six authors from Belgium and the Netherlands touring six English cities over six days. Other Dutch-language comics I’ve recently enjoyed include Guido van Driel’s Gasten, which focuses on two English football fans who visit Amsterdam and share magic mushrooms and intimate secrets; Erik Kriek’s eerie take on Lovecraft in From Beyond, And Other Tales; and, of course, Barbara Stok’s Vincent, her account of the final years of Dutch artist Van Gogh, which I was lucky enough to translate.
Here’s to lots more great comic books in 2013, in Dutch and in other languages. One resolution that won’t be hard to keep: continue to pay frequent visits to Lambiek on Kerkstraat in Amsterdam. It’s one of the best comic shops around and a wonderful place to browse for new releases and old favourites.
As a final note, here’s a little graffiti Amsterdam-style. I wonder if Vincent would have approved…
I was delighted to receive a large box in the post today from fabulous New Zealand publishers Book Island, via Belgium. I swiftly unpacked it to find the beautifully produced Sir Mouse to the Rescue by Dirk Nielandt and Marjolein Pottie and Bernie and Flora by Annemie Berebrouckx, both of which I recently translated.
I’ve been following the adventures of Book Island and publisher Greet Pauwelijn online and looking yearningly at pictures of the book launches in New Zealand for these two titles and for Book Island’s third picture book, Sammy and the Skyscraper Sandwich written in English by Lorraine Francis and illustrated by Belgian Pieter Gaudesaboos.
This was truly an international operation – and the books were an absolute pleasure to work on! Here’s to Book Island and to working with people all over the world. I hope lots of children in New Zealand and elsewhere will get to enjoy the adventures of Bernie and Flora and Mouse and Dragon in English now, as well as in Dutch.
I’ve just returned from a trip to the UK, which mainly involved catching up with people and stocking up on books for the winter. The first port of call was FantasyCon in Brighton, where highlights included the Spectral Press launch of John Llewellyn Probert’s The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine. The dealers’ room always offers plenty of opportunities for new purchases and the Joe R. Lansdale and Angry Robot stands were particularly tempting… Between the two of us, we came back with quite a haul.
Then I headed up to London for a few days, where I visited the marvellous Pre-Raphaelite exhibition (definitely recommended!) at Tate Britain with a friend and spent more time exploring bookshops. In Waterstones on Piccadilly I had my first sighting in the wild (sightings at home aren’t quite as exciting) of my translation of Cees Nooteboom’s Roads to Berlin, which picked up a good review from the FT at the weekend.
On Friday, I went to the International Translation Day event at Kings Place in London. Many thanks to the organisers for putting together such a fascinating programme, while still giving us enough opportunity to chat during the breaks. The day began with a plenary State of the Nation talk about literature in translation, with a star turn by publisher Christopher MacLehose. There were two seminars during the day. Ann Morgan was one of the speakers at the session on reader engagement and it was really interesting to hear about her experiences of “reading the world“. Her project involves reading a book from every country in the world over the course of a year and she’s had a fine time connecting with readers and writers all over the world. I was pleased to hear that she has a book coming out about the project and I’ll certainly be following her blog. The afternoon seminar I attended was about the rise of the small press and I was particularly interested to hear what Sophie Lewis, editor-at-large at And Other Stories, had to say about the success of this great little publishing house. After the seminar, we all came together for a session on Shakespeare in translation, which included a reading of “To be or not to be…” in three languages and a discussion of the Globe to Globe project, which saw 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed at the Globe in 37 different languages. The day ended with the award of the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize, with a focus on Chinese this year.
The latest exciting addition to the book collection was the Dutch edition of Nooteboom’s Brieven aan Poseidon (Letters to Poseidon), which arrived in the post at home yesterday. It’s an absolutely beautiful book of vignettes and reflections. This edition by De Bezige Bij looks stunning. Another recommendation.
I hear that a certain announcement is due from Sweden today. Whatever the result, I applaud the work of the Nobel committee, but I definitely know who I’m cheering for: Cees Nooteboom, the literary juggernaut.
The fourteenth annual Literary Translation Days (Vertaaldagen) are taking place in Amsterdam this year on 14 and 15 December. The symposium day on the Friday will focus on the visibility of the translator, with various presentations and discussions. It’s followed by a day of workshops on the Saturday. Thoroughly recommended for anyone who translates into or out of Dutch! More information here.
I was delighted to be able to attend my first IBBY Congress this year. The International Board on Books for Young People is committed to promoting international understanding through children’s books. With this in mind, every two years it holds an international congress for writers, illustrators, educators, publishers, translators and others involved in the children’s book world. As this year’s congress was relatively nearby, in London, and had the theme of “Crossing Boundaries: Migrations and Translations”, I knew that I had to go.
What a list of speakers! The event kicked off with performances from not one Children’s Laureate, but three. And they really were performances. Michael Morpurgo told tales and sang a song from War Horse, Anthony Browne shared stories about his work and Julia Donaldson actually busked on-stage with her husband before getting some of the braver members of the audience up there with her to act the parts of a cow, a goat, a pig and a chicken.
Other highlights of the plenary sessions included Michael Rosen’s brilliant preentation and a very inspiring talk from Shaun Tan. There was plenty of translation-based entertainment too, including a translation duel between Daniel Hahn and Rosalind Harvey and an interview with Kai Meyer and veteran translator Anthea Bell. Saturday evening saw a gala reception at the Science Museum and the presentation of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award to Peter Sís and María Terera Andruetto. Flemish author Bart Moeyaert was shortlisted for his “subtle depictions of strong characters by evoking poetical atmospheres using a language that combines both humour and seriousness” (phew!) and he was there to pick up his certificate – to loud applause, particularly from the Dutch-speaking contingent.
This was a great way to bring together people from all over the world who share an interest in literature for children, and a fantastic opportunity to meet up with old friends and new. Thanks to the organisers of IBBY London 2012. Now, will I make it to Mexico City in 2014 and Auckland in 2016?
I was delighted to see this piece in the Economist about literary translation featuring the wonderful Peirene Press, who published Tomorrow Pamplona, my translation of Jan van Mersbergen’s novel. As Ali Smith says, books like Peirene’s give us “a glimpse of all the amazing things we’re missing”. Here’s to the Nymph and many more books that are “thought provoking, well designed, and short”.