We love this book!

I recently wrote a post for the people at We Love This Book about Tonke Dragt and some of the things I’m grateful for…

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From Amsterdam to Antwerp

Thanks to the people at the Flemish Literature Fund, I spent November at the beautiful Translators’ House in the Zurenborg district of Antwerp, where I kept myself very busy translating and also checking out the sights of Antwerp.

It was a packed month, starting with the Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen’s workshops for translators of English into Dutch, which I co-moderated with Caroline Meijer and Harm Damsma and Niek Miedema. Michele Hutchison and I were on stand-by to help with any queries where a native speaker was required and it was fascinating to see what kind of questions come up when translating “the other way around”, i.e. from English into Dutch. English is trickier than I thought…!

I also had the chance to check out the Antwerp Book Fair and was delighted to spot some children’s books from Book Island. Publisher Greet Pauwelijn has a great eye for picture books!


The Flemish Literature Fund’s tour for foreign poetry publishers took place in November and I went along to the opening, along with my housemate in the Translators’ House, David McKay. We had a few good chats and were treated to some poems by Leonard Nolens himself, in German, English and Dutch.

I also took in a reading at the Letterenhuis with Peter Terrin, who kindly answered a few questions about his book Post Mortem, which I’ve just translated for MacLehose Press.

My friend Eva Devos from Stichting Lezen showed me their brilliant O Mundo project for schools. Based on picture books from all over the world, the project is aimed at primary-school children in Belgium and allows children whose families come from a different linguistic background to introduce their classmates and teachers to their other language, all with the help of illustrated books. I’d heard about O Mundo before, but actually seeing the books and trying to make sense of stories in all those different languages brought home to me what an important and powerful idea it is. I’d like my own suitcase full of picture books in dozens of different languages now!

I rounded off my month in Antwerp with a visit to Grafixx, the alternative publishing and zine festival, which had an impressive animated film programme and a great comics market down in the basement. Comics artist Brecht Vandenbroucke also gave a very interesting talk about his work and his artistic path.

Translation plans were discussed.

Books were bought, mainly at Mekanik Strip and De groene waterman.

It being Belgium, chips were, of course, eaten.

And a couple of cocktails involving Elixir d’Anvers were consumed. This particular one, with cava, was from the Zuiderterras, a restaurant with one of the best views in Antwerp.

For most of the month, though, this friendly little desk was my base.

Thanks, Antwerp, for a fun and productive month!

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“A sparkling book, filled with wonder”

I’m so pleased that I was given the opportunity to translate Cees Nooteboom’s Letters to Poseidon, which MacLehose Press have just published in this beautiful edition, with a foreword by Alberto Manguel. I always enjoy following Nooteboom on his travels, and this book, featuring musings and letters addressed to the god Poseidon, is an absolute delight. It was a joy both to read and to translate. Justin Marozzi’s review in The Spectator reflects my own feelings about Letters to Poseidon: “an engrossing journey across continents… there is little chance anyone reading Nooteboom would ever be bored. This is a sparkling book, filled with wonder.” I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

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Mikis and the Donkey

Eerdman Books for Young Readers recently published my translation of Bibi Dumon Tak’s Mikis and the Donkey, beautifully illustrated by Philip Hopman. It’s a lovely little gem of a book about a young boy who teaches his grandfather to take good care of the family’s donkey. The story’s warm and fun and its message about animal welfare is both subtle and effective. Bibi also wrote Soldier Bear, which I translated for Eerdmans a couple of years ago. Here’s wishing Mikis and his donkey every success!

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News about The Letter for the King

Pushkin Children’s Books released this beautiful cover for the new winter edition of The Letter for the King today. Silvery, shiny and snowy, it’s perfect for the winter months. Such a stunning design!

Excitingly, The Letter for the King has also recently been shortlisted for the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation, together with five other great children’s titles.

Meanwhile, over at The Independent, Simon Usborne has written a brilliant article about the background of the book and how it came to be published in English. It’s lovely to see this wonderful book getting the attention it deserves!

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UKLA longlists

It’s fantastic to see three children’s books in translation on the longlists for the UK Literacy Association’s awards. Tonke Dragt’s The Letter for the King, which I translated for Pushkin Children’s Books, is in the 7-11 category. The category for older readers (12-16+) includes two titles in translation: Timothée de Fombelle’s Vango, translated by Sarah Ardizzone for Walker Books, and Wolfgang Herrndorf’s wonderful Tschick, translated by Tim Mohr as Why We Took the Car for Andersen Press and for Arthur A. Levine in the States. There are so many other great books on the UKLA lists too. I’m heading off to the bookshop with a long list of my own…

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Pamplona – and beyond!

Jan van Mersbergen’s brilliant Tomorrow Pamplona, which I translated for Peirene Press (2011), has been optioned by First Born Films. I’m over the moon for Jan and I hope that the project goes all the way. Tomorrow Pamplona is a very visual book and it reads like a road movie, so I’m already wondering what the characters might look like on screen…

Here’s a picture of Jan and me at a reading of Tomorrow Pamplona in Copenhagen in June this year, where we were kindly invited by Ark Books, a great little non-profit bookshop that specializes in translations. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in Copenhagen.

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And another hoorah for comics!

I recently translated these two, very different graphic novels. Willy Linthout’s beautifully written What We Need to Know (Conundrum Press) is a touching family drama about three brothers, each struggling with his own demons. Legends of the Tour by Jan Cleijne (Head of Zeus), which I translated with Michele Hutchison, is a stunningly illustrated – and very timely – account of the Tour de France, its history, its heroes and its scandals. Two absolutely cracking reads – and great fun to translate!

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Hoorah for comics!

Had another great day at the Stripdagen comics festival in Haarlem yesterday with Michele Hutchison, my fellow comic-book translator and partner in crime. A couple of the highlights were Guido van Driel’s exhibition and getting books signed by Ype Driessen and Floor de Goede. Hmm, so many comic books waiting to be translated… Hoorah!

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Hidden Like Anne Frank

Today was the launch of Hidden Like Anne Frank at the American Book Center in Amsterdam. Marcel Prins gave a fascinating talk and told us about the research that he and co-author Henk Steenhuis carried out for about the Hidden Like Anne Frank project. The book tells the stories of fourteen Dutch Jews who went into hiding during the war and who survived to talk about their own experiences. We were very privileged to have four of the survivors attend the event and to hear from them in person. Thanks to the American Book Center for hosting the launch!

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