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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