On Monday 3 March the literary translators’ division of the Dutch Authors’ Guild (VvL), in cooperation with the Foundation for Literary Activities Amsterdam (SLAA), hosted its annual discussion evening on translation, ‘Vertaalslag’. This year’s theme was ‘the translator as author, the author as translator’. The four speakers, associate professor of English literature and translation Onno Kosters, translator Jelle Noorman, artist, writer and translator Miek Zwamborn, and poet Tsead Bruinja, all had experience in both roles: they are writers as well as translators (sometimes of their own work).
The evening concluded with the presentation of the two annual VvL awards, ‘the Angel and Devil of Literary Translation’. The Translation Angel is awarded to a person or organization (but not a translator) who has made a positive contribution to the public recognition of literary translators’ work. This year it was awarded to the website of the Amsterdam bookstore Athenaeum (www.athenaeum.nl (http://www NULL.athenaeum NULL.nl)), which in addition to a wide range of literary articles and reviews features a section called ‘The First Sentence’, devoted to translators expounding on the first sentence in one of their recent translations.
The Translation Devil is awarded to a person (or organization) who is in an eminent position to contribute positively to literary translation’s public recognition, but who has conspicuously failed to do so. This year’s ‘winner’ was De Wereld Draait Door (DWDD), the Netherlands’ most popular prime-time TV talk show. DWDD manages to devote a fair amount of attention to culture and entertainment, and for the past few years even those rare birds of the television landscape – books – have been making a regular appearance there. But every time the programme’s panel of book lovers enthuse about their favourite books and nominate their Book of the Month, they unfailingly omit to mention the name of the translator – an omission that’s all the more glaring when at the same time they repeatedly stress that it’s ‘a new translation’: if that is considered a selling point, surely the name of the translator should be one too.
The Translation Angel and Devil are embodied in two statuettes by Patrick Chetboun (https://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=wQIh4tQe9uk). Formerly, the Award winners held these statuettes on loan for a year. Starting this year, they receive a prize they can keep, a knitted urn designed by Alya Hessy that doubles as both Angel and Devil: it’s a silently reproaching black vase that can, with a simple sleight of hand, assume the guise of a golden winner’s trophy.