Wanted: Black women English to Dutch translators

By: philgoddard

Dutch poet declines assignment to translate Gorman’s works

A writer who was chosen to translate American poet Amanda Gorman’s work into Dutch has handed back the assignment following criticism that a white author was selected to translate the words of a Black woman who is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, who last year became the youngest writer to win the International Booker Prize with her novel “The Discomfort of Evening,” announced the decision in a Twitter post Friday.

One of the critics of the choice of Rijneveld was Janice Deul, an activist and journalist who wrote an opinion piece in the Netherlands’ national daily newspaper de Volkskrant about the topic. “Not to take anything away from Rijneveld’s qualities, but why not chose a writer who is — just like Gorman — spoken word artist, young, female and unapologetically Black.”

On Friday, Deul tweeted: “Thanks for this decision” and tagged Rijneveld and Meulenhoff.

https://apnews.com/article/rijneveld-gorman-translation-uproar-e5b9d81cb2e50e7ce3906d1f850ed261

Comments about this article


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Wanted: Black women English to Dutch translators

P.L.F.Persio  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:38
Member (2010)
English to Italian
+ ...
Not amused Mar 1

Why not choose a translator who is unapologetically (whatever that means) good at their job?

Barbara Carrara
Renée van Bijsterveld
Darius Sciuka
Rosanna Palermo
philgoddard
Dan Lucas
IrinaN
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My title should summarize my main point Mar 1

In this newspaper article, they asked translators whether it matters that the translator is not black.

Does the translator also have to be female, young and black? Do descent, life experience, and affinity with American history matter? No, says [a professional translator]. "A good translator is a chameleon
... See more
In this newspaper article, they asked translators whether it matters that the translator is not black.

Does the translator also have to be female, young and black? Do descent, life experience, and affinity with American history matter? No, says [a professional translator]. "A good translator is a chameleon who empathizes completely and remains invisible himself." [Another translator] says that it is precisely not the intention that writer and translator share the same cultural background. “That is exactly the opposite of what translating is. [It is quite normal that] the translator has a different background.”
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philgoddard
P.L.F.Persio
Darius Sciuka
Philip Lees
Robert Rietvelt
Marina Taffetani
Mohamad Alayoubi
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:38
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Offensive Mar 1

I find that title offensive - to everyone.

In some jurisdictions it would be illegal to advertise any assignment that excludes particular categories of people - as that assigment does. Here in the UK, for instance, the law says

lpiewawrm5wxpdql1ajd.jpg

[Edited at 2021-03-01 15:41 GMT]


philgoddard
P.L.F.Persio
Darius Sciuka
IrinaN
Angus Stewart
Gudrun Wolfrath
Kaspars Melkis
 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:38
English to Arabic
+ ...
apnews? Mar 1

Isn't Marieke a female already? Why list "being a female" as a requirement then?

Someone has been burning through their "weit 🚬", apparently! 😝😂

And, "not chose a writer" on apnews? One does that here in a casual, unpaid post and would get a whole offensive line on them like a hump on a camel! 😝😂


Tom in London wrote:
In some jurisdictions it would be illegal to advertise any assignment that excludes particular categories of people - as that assigment does. Here in the UK, for instance, the law says

Theory is one thing, application is another.
Even if they don't put in the ad, they still enforce it when choosing.
When operating abroad, both UK nationals and companies (for example) are NOT the least shy to put it in the ad as well.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Tom Mar 1

Tom in London wrote:
I find that title offensive - to everyone.


I think the author of that title was being sarcastic.

For those who didn't bother reading the article, the Dutch publisher originally hired a white Dutch translator that the black English poet was quite satisfied with, but then a black Dutch activist complained about the fact that the translator is white, and then the translator withdrew.

I don't think the activist really thinks that a black translator would do a better translation -- for her, it is more about recognition than about quality.


Gerard de Noord
P.L.F.Persio
Liviu-Lee Roth
Philip Lees
María Paula Gorgone
Mervyn Henderson
expressisverbis
 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:38
Japanese to English
+ ...
English to Dutch translators Mar 2

The perfect intersection of political correctness, cancel culture and wokeness. I hope the translation will bear the following:
"This title was translated by a Black female". Future literary translations could bear the following: "This title was translated by a gay male", or "This title was translated by a vegan female" or "This title was translated by a transitioning male".


Baran Keki
Gerard Barry
Hermien Desaivre
Robert Rietvelt
Oriana W.
Marina Taffetani
Liviu-Lee Roth
 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 19:38
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Offensive to poet, too Mar 2

Samuel Murray wrote:

I don't think the activist really thinks that a black translator would do a better translation -- for her, it is more about recognition than about quality.


Isn't this rather insulting to the poet, too, suggesting that her work can only be properly understood by other black women?

My impression of Amanda Gorman’s communication skills is that they are far better than that. And Gorman herself seems to have been quite happy with the initial choice of translator.


Hermien Desaivre
Robert Rietvelt
Oriana W.
Christine Andersen
neilmac
Natalia Potashnik
Kay Denney
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Gammon Mar 2

This is an easy target for outraged boomers, but is it so very different to arguing that only trained engineers can translate engineering texts?

As an educated, affluent, middle-class, middle-aged, straight, able-bodied, white, red-blooded, binary and almost impossibly handsome male, I always feel a bit outgunned in debates like this.

I did once transition experimentally on this very site into a hot young woman who may well have batted for the other side, in a wheelchair,
... See more
This is an easy target for outraged boomers, but is it so very different to arguing that only trained engineers can translate engineering texts?

As an educated, affluent, middle-class, middle-aged, straight, able-bodied, white, red-blooded, binary and almost impossibly handsome male, I always feel a bit outgunned in debates like this.

I did once transition experimentally on this very site into a hot young woman who may well have batted for the other side, in a wheelchair, but the gammon on here sizzled off the scale within days and that was that: Christine S was cancelled and fake profile pics were banned.

So what am I saying? Good question. Um... that it’s too easy to dismiss new ideas and values out of hand. Without knowing about the situation facing Dutch women translators of colour, it’s hard to judge this one. They could well need a helping hand. That would be my assumption. And as for the invisible translator: yeah, right.

So while I instinctively agree this is silly, I do also wonder...
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Anthony John Keily
bris97
 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 19:38
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Specialty is not in question Mar 2

Chris S wrote:

This is an easy target for outraged boomers, but is it so very different to arguing that only trained engineers can translate engineering texts?



Yes, it's quite different. It's like arguing that only black (or Asian, or gay, or whatever) engineers can translate engineering texts written by black (or Asian ...) authors.

Nobody is questioning the originally selected translator's literary credentials here, as far as I can see.

According to the Guardian's report of this story, Gorman picked the translator herself.

I don't see why she shouldn't be allowed to do so, without outside interference from people who mistakenly think it's their business.


Hermien Desaivre
Marina Taffetani
neilmac
Kahli Bree Adams, M.A.
 

Sadek_A  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:38
English to Arabic
+ ...
..... Mar 2

Chris S wrote:
Christine S was cancelled

Be that as it may, she still has her place in our hearts. 😝😂

But, a middle ground could've been reached still, with Marieke working on it along with a black co-translator.


Anthony John Keily
Christine Andersen
neilmac
Chris S
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
The right translator Mar 2

Philip Lees wrote:
It's like arguing that only black (or Asian, or gay, or whatever) engineers can translate engineering texts written by black (or Asian ...) authors.

Except an engineering text is dry and factual. This is poetry. It’s so personal. I don’t know this poet but her colour, age and gender may well be defining characteristics.

It’s hard to argue that a young black rapper would not be a better person than me to translate another young black rapper’s rappings.

The Guardian wrote: Gorman, who is 22, had selected the 29-year-old herself, as a fellow young writer who had also come to fame early.

So the poet herself did think that the translator’s background, if not colour, is relevant.

It’s an interesting topic. Even before we get to the centuries of oppression.


P.L.F.Persio
Anthony John Keily
expressisverbis
Andrew Morris
 

Gerard Barry
Germany
Local time: 18:38
German to English
Mob rule Mar 2

Another example of mob rule and cancel culture. If Gorman herself picked this person to translate her poetry, then what's the problem?

Renée van Bijsterveld
Christine Andersen
neilmac
IrinaN
Chris S
Stanislav Pokorny
Kahli Bree Adams, M.A.
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:38
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Chris Mar 2

Chris S wrote:
This is an easy target for outraged boomers, but is it so very different to arguing that only trained engineers can translate engineering texts?


More like arguing that only people who grew up in a house where the parents and grandparents were engineers can translate engineering texts. Or that only people who grew up in a town with great engineering works can translate engineering texts. Being a colour isn't a skill you can learn.

It would be silly to suggest that black people are born with or grow up with the "skill of being black"... except perhaps locally in countries where black people typically live separate lives and have distinctly separate life experiences. This is largely not the case in the Netherlands (unlike in the United States, where even in very recent history there was tremendous systematic discrimination against black people).

And none of the black translators proposed by the black Dutch activist are African-American, so the "similar culture or experiences" argument doesn't count. Black people in the Netherlands face and have faced an entirely different set of difficulties than their American counterparts.

[Edited at 2021-03-02 11:38 GMT]


P.L.F.Persio
Marina Taffetani
Gerard de Noord
Kay Denney
Jane Pocock
 

Anthony John Keily
Local time: 18:38
Member
Italian to English
+ ...
Not so sure Mar 2

@Samuel
Re: "It would be silly to suggest that black people are born with or grow up with the 'skill of being black'..."

On the contrary, I think that people of colour growing up in the EU or in the US have to learn a set of coping skills to deal with racism, not locally or exceptionally, but generally. (Although I do take your point that the US situation can be applied too neatly to other societies.)



[Edited at 2021-03-02 12:57 GMT]


Chris S
 

Anthony John Keily
Local time: 18:38
Member
Italian to English
+ ...
Save your indignation for racism Mar 2

I'm with Chris on this one. And the essential problem here is that issue is being raised in "PC gone mad" clickbait fashion.

In many societies a much-needed re-set is going on, and the outcome isn't always going to be perfect. But the underlying need for the re-set is profound and violent discrimination that is far from over. I'd prefer to save my indignation for that.

If anything, the issue shouldn't be so much whether a translator from the dominant culture in a society
... See more
I'm with Chris on this one. And the essential problem here is that issue is being raised in "PC gone mad" clickbait fashion.

In many societies a much-needed re-set is going on, and the outcome isn't always going to be perfect. But the underlying need for the re-set is profound and violent discrimination that is far from over. I'd prefer to save my indignation for that.

If anything, the issue shouldn't be so much whether a translator from the dominant culture in a society can translate work written by members of minorities, but whether it mightn't be possible find a translator from a similar background. After all, in the literary area, such pairings are common and writers frequently choose or request to translate or deal with artists or topics for whom/which they feel a special affinity. Edmund White didn't need to be gay to write a biography of Genet, but he probably needed to be gay to write it as he did.

[Edited at 2021-03-02 13:22 GMT]
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Chris S
 
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