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Translations and More Translations

December 15, 2016

Many years ago I moved from the Netherlands to England and this meant I had to live my life in a new language. For years I saw Dutch and English as completely separate entities. English was what I spoke at work and to friends, Dutch was almost entirely reserved for talking to my family.

When visiting the Netherlands it always baffled me when people asked me: how do you say this in English? It wasn’t how I thought. The two languages were separate. It doesn’t work, except when specially trained in simultaneous translation, trying to translate on the fly while having a conversation.

This all changed when I started Holland Park Press. From the outset we decided to have a dual-language column on our website, and before I knew it I was translating from Dutch to English. A very good, and necessary, exercise to brush up my Dutch!

There are lots of dictionaries available online but I continue looking up words and phrases in the old and trusted English-Dutch & Dutch-English dictionaries I used in secondary school. Maybe those dictionaries produced before the help of computers are simply better. I still remember the day I became the proud owner of these dictionaries, when accompanied by my father I collected my first set of books at the start of my first year in secondary school.

I once translated a whole novel, Angel written by my brother Arnold Jansen op de Haar, but unfortunately I have no longer time to translate novels. That’s a shame because I love translating, especially when it comes to phrases and proverbs. It would be wonderful to have a dictionary of proverbs and phrases, but I don’t think it exists.

So, these days, I work with professional translators and the authors on fine-tuning a translation. We just finished two quite different but equally exciting projects.

One is The Yellow House, a novel about Vincent van Gogh. This debut novel by Jeroen Blokhuis was first published in Dutch under the title Place Lamartine in September 2015. I’m especially pleased that we’ve commissioned a young translator Asja Novak. She’s just starting out as a translator and this is her first big project.

Matching a debut author with an emerging translator is the sort of project that’s at the heart of Holland Park Press. Editing is key to produce a glorious translation. Editor Catherine Best, the publisher and Dutch editor and author Arnold Jansen op de Haar have spent many hours to fine-tune the translation with the help of the translator and author. The result is an intriguing look inside the head of Vincent van Gogh when he was producing his most famous paintings in Arles. The Yellow House will be published in March 2017.

The other translation project is The Refrain of Other People’s Lives. The English translation of Arnold Jansen op de Haar’s latest poetry collection, published in Dutch in 2016. Arnold’s work has been published by De Arbeiderspers and J.M. Meulenhof in the Netherlands. This new collection is inspired by his move from the Netherlands to the UK, and is a thought-provoking account of a keen EU immigrant. 

The Refrain of Other People’s Lives, has been translated by John Irons, who with Paul Vincent won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2016 for 100 Dutch-Language Poems. The collaboration between translator and author again worked very well and we’re very excited about The Refrain of Other People’s Lives which will be published in March 2017

I would like to point out that these translations are entirely funded by the publisher. Why? Because we delight in being independent, and bringing you books in which we have put our faith and money. It’s easy to support us, just buy one of our books and be transported to a different world.

And there is more! We have another very exciting translation which will make its appearance in 2017. It’s the English translation by Susan Ridder of Het instituut, The Institution by Vincent Bijlo. “Otto Iking is an outsider, at home as well as at the boarding school for the blind, but he has remarkable powers of observation.” Watch this space!