What I Did Last Summer

Well, it’s the beginning of September and I have that back-to-school feeling. New pencil case! And books! Hoorah! That said, I’ve been rather busy with school this summer too…

I took part in a fascinating weekend workshop for literary translators in Leuven, sponsored by the Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen. It was aimed at literary translators from Dutch into English who also work from Flemish, which is of course essentially the same language, but with a few important differences. As a group, we discussed translation issues in texts by Louis Paul Boon, Dimitri Verhulst, Geertrui Daem and also an excerpt from a Flemish graphic novel, De tweede kus by Conz. Els Aerts from the Vlaams Fonds voor de Letteren came to talk to us about Flemish graphic novels and language expert and newspaper columnist Ludo Permentier hosted an interesting session about the differences and similarities of the different varieties of Dutch.

Then it was over to UEA in Norwich for the literary translation summer school at the British Centre for Literary Translation. I joined the German group for a fun, collaborative week of translation. We worked with translator Shaun Whiteside and author Sabrina Janesch to produce an English excerpt of Sabrina’s beautiful novel Katzenberge. At the end of the week, the different groups on the course came together to present our work in what felt like an end-of-term show. I don’t think we showed ourselves up too badly, but the Japanese-English group put on a proper performance, including a Mancunian rendition of the text and even a bit of slapstick, as one member of the group gamely broke a raw egg on his head to simulate the author’s own attempts to describe the sound of smashing eggs. Now that’s real dedication to the craft.

The Japanese-English group, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt. The egg has yet to hit the translator!

So, after two very enjoyable busman’s holidays, I’m now spending a few weeks in Berlin on another extended working break. I’ve been concentrating on my translation of Cees Nooteboom’s Berlijn for a number of months now and, having decided it was time for a research trip, I’ve exchanged Amsterdam for Berlin, where I’ll be following in Cees’s footsteps and polishing those words…

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