Bookworms who want to find out more about Dutch literature should not miss a get together with several leading local writers at the American Book Center on January 9, writes Ana McGinley.
Esther Gerritsen and Renate Dorrestein are among the best-selling authors who will be reading at the special event to celebrate the first birthday of publishing house World Editions, which focuses on bringing Dutch and other literature to a wider audience.
After all, if your ability to read Dutch books in the local language seems to support the notion that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or taal, translations are the obvious choice. But not every Dutch book worthy of a wider audience gets picked up.
It’s a problem that Eric Visser, who founded the successful De Geus publishing house in 1983, is only too well aware of. Only 4% of the books published in Britain and the US, he points out, are translated from other languages.
So why are so few Dutch books translated into English? The usual practice for an English-language publishing house is to acquire a foreign language book, commission the translation, and promote the translated book as per an English-language book.
The first hurdle for a Dutch author wanting to publish outside the Netherlands is having a publisher read their work. As Visser explains: ‘Most foreign publishers can’t read Dutch.’ Hence most non-English books are disregarded without even having their covers opened.
Visser launched World Editions, an independent publishing house with the mission to bring international literature to a global reading audience, a year ago this month. To date, the company has published 21 titles from six languages and more are on their way.
This February the company will publish translations of Jaap Robben’s debut bestseller ‘You Have to Me to Love (Dutch title: Birk) which was also awarded the Dutch Bookseller’s Award in 2014, and the highly anticipated translations of The Qur’an and The Messenger by the Persian-Dutch writer and columnist, Kader Abdolah.
To date, the most successful books from World Editions have been A Summer with Kim Novak by Swedish crime author Håkan Nesser, and the Dutch bestseller Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp.
As an internationally orientated country, the Netherlands builds bridges between cultures, says Visser. ‘Dutch writers write about the world. They travel a lot and write from an international perspective mixed with some aspects of our own Dutch and Flemish history, our colonial past and the two world wars.’