In developing and commissioning The Dutch Riveter, we as an editorial team have worked closely with the Dutch Foundation for Literature’s New Dutch Writing (NDW) campaign. Several of the authors, and many of the translators, featured in the campaign appear in this magazine, offering our readers a selection of work we believe represents the best of contemporary literature in the Netherlands. This literature is characterised by a renewed scrutiny of the Netherlands’ colonial past and its current treatment of immigrants, by the lives of LGBTQ people, by questions of freedom and religion, and by new views on the traditions of Dutch rural life. It also reveals a generation who seem already to be experts in their craft, as the pieces we feature in this magazine demonstrate. Economic prose, crisp dialogue, perfect blends of wit and sadness, beautiful characterisation and a lightness of touch are all evident in the work of these writers, suggesting a mature literary culture in which raw talent is husbanded and refined.
The new wave of Dutch writers is accompanied by a new generation of translators, many of them contributing translations, reviews and features to this magazine. NDW has put these translators at the centre of its efforts to bring the work of the new generation of Dutch authors to UK readers. In the following piece we hear from the campaign’s translator in residence, Alice Tetley-Paul, about her experience and NDW’s work in the UK.
—The Dutch Riveter Editors
Dutch writing is gaining momentum in the UK, thanks at least in part to the efforts of the New Dutch Writing campaign. Launched in the summer of 2019, the campaign, run jointly by the Nederlands Letterenfonds (the Dutch Foundation for Literature) and the UK arts agency Modern Culture, NDW aims to promote Dutch writing in the UK while drawing attention to the integral role of the translator in bringing it to an English-speaking audience. Dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 saw travel restrictions imposed, events cancelled and social-distancing measures enforced. However, initiatives such as online festivals, book launches and virtual workshops sprang up, enabling contemporary Dutch writers and their translators not only to come together, but also to enjoy the spotlight.
As the NDW campaign’s translator in residence, my role has encompassed translation, training sessions, book launches and projects with schools and universities – both online and face to face. In spring 2020, as the UK was preparing for lockdown, I worked alongside my mentor, the translator Jonathan Reeder, to provide guidance to students from three UK universities as they translated an extract from Fikry El Azzouzi’s The Reward. Before lockdown, I was also able to meet students at UCL in London to discuss their translations and any issues they might have. Although we were not able to gather in Sheffield as planned to discuss the final translations, a digital symposium was organised so we could still meet up virtually to round off the project, with Fikry in Belgium, Jonathan in the Netherlands and the rest of us in our respective locations across the UK. The project was a resounding success, and being involved as a professional translator felt extra special to me as that very same project had been my first real-world translation experience back when I was a student.
As it became clear that Covid-19 wasn’t going away in a hurry, the migration to online events and workshops became par for the course. I appeared (via Zoom) at an event at the Dutch Centre to launch my co-translation (with Anna Asbury) of My Name is Selma, the memoir of Selma van de Perre, who joined the Dutch Resistance during the Second World War and used an alias to survive the war and Ravensbrück concentration camp. (You can read an extract from the book in our translation in this magazine.)
I also took part in two online events to promote the VERZET series of Dutch chapbooks, having translated one of the books: Bergje by Bregje Hofstede. I spoke alongside other authors and translators at the launch, in collaboration with the National Centre for Writing in Norwich, as well as at an event for Sheffield’s Off the Shelf Festival. The VERZET series, which was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book, was published by New Dutch Writing in partnership with Strangers Press to showcase eight of the best new Dutch writers in translation. The NDW campaign will continue to promote and pitch these authors and their translators in 2021 (you can read work by some of them in this magazine). The inclusion of translators at events such as these has helped increase awareness of the role of the translator, and what’s more, there’s been huge interest in NDW’s translation workshops: it has run seven workshops since May 2020.
Of course, the International Booker Prize win for Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and Michele Hutchison for The Discomfort of Evening, and the international success of Rutger Bregman’s bestseller Humankind, translated by Elizabeth Manton and Erica Moore, have helped draw attention to the NDW campaign and to Dutch literature in general, as has the campaign’s prominent online presence.
As for the continuation of my residency into 2021, I will be back in schools (either virtually or physically), building on training received earlier in 2020 through the Creative Translation Ambassadors project with the British Centre for Literary Translation and National Centre for Writing in Norwich and the Translation Exchange in Oxford. I will also be undertaking short residencies in London, Sheffield and Newcastle, where I will be working with university students and delivering translation workshops in schools.
I will also continue to be involved with the campaign’s social-media presence, so do make sure you are following the Dutch Foundation for Literature on Facebook and Twitter and keep an eye out for #newdutchwriting and the latest news and updates from the campaign.
I would like to thank Rachel Toogood and Martin Colthorpe from Modern Culture, as well as the Dutch Foundation for Literature, for this opportunity, and my mentor Jonathan Reeder for his time, support and guidance.
By Alice Tetley-Paul