Dutch Masterpieces: on translating Multatuli and Slauerhoff

20 november 2019
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Wednesday November 20th, 7.30 PM award-winning translators Ina Rilke and David McKay discuss Multatuli's Max Havelaar en J.J. Slauerhoffs Adrift in the Middle Kingdom (Het leven op aarde) at Athenaeum Bookstore, Spui 14-16. Kristen Gehrman is your moderator. Admission is free, but RSVP.

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Woensdag 20 november vanaf 19.30 spreken de bekroonde vertalers Ina Rilke en David McKay bij Athenaeum Boekhandel & Nieuwscentrum over hun vertalingen van Multatuli's Max Havelaar en J.J. Slauerhoffs Het leven op aarde (Adrift in the Middle Kingdom). Kristen Gehrman modereert, en jij kan erbij zijn!

Ina Rilke studeerde vertaalwetenschap en vertaalde eerder W.F. Hermans, Cees Nooteboom, Erwin Mortier, Sijie Dai en Hella Haasse. Ze lichtte voor ons haar vertaling van Louis Couperus’ Eline Vere toe. Kijk voor meer informatie op haar website inarilke.com.

David McKay studeerde filosofie en linguïstiek en werkt sinds 1998 als freelance vertaler van voornamelijk literair proza en non-fictie, onder anderen Geert Buelens, Jan Brokken, Daniëlle Hermans en J.J. Slauerhoff. Hij lichtte voor ons zijn vertaling van Stefan Hertmans’ Oorlog en terpentijn toe. Kijk voor meer informatie op zijn website.

Kristen Gehrman werkt als redacteur, schrijver en vertaler naar het Engels. In 2016 vertaalde ze Lize Spit op Crossing Border. Sindsdien vertaalde ze fragmenten uit het werk van Anne-Fleur van der Heiden, Rob van Essen, Astrid Panis en Aukelien Weverling. Haar eerste boekvertaling is die van Annejet van der Zijls Sonny Boy - en ze lichtte die voor Athenaeum.nl. toe.

Over Max Havelaar

A fierce indictment of colonialism, Max Havelaar is a masterpiece of Dutch literature based on the author's own experience as an adminstrator in the Dutch East Indies in the 1850s.

A brilliantly inventive fiction that is also a work of burning political outrage, Max Havelaar tells the story of a renegade Dutch colonial administrator’s ultimately unavailing struggle to end the exploitation of the Indonesian peasantry. Havelaar’s impassioned exposé is framed by the fatuous reflections of an Amsterdam coffee trader, Drystubble, into whose hands it has fallen. Thus a tale of the jungles and villages of Indonesia is interknit with one of the houses and warehouses of bourgeois Amsterdam where the tidy profits from faraway brutality not only accrue but are counted as a sign of God’s grace.

Multatuli (meaning “I have suffered greatly”) was the pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker, and his novel caused a political storm when it came out in Holland. Max Havelaar, however, is as notable for its art as it is for its politics. Layering not only different stories but different ways of writing—including plays, poems, lists, letters, and a wild accumulation of notes—to furious, hilarious, and disconcerting effect, this masterpiece of Dutch literature confronts the fixities of power with the protean and subversive energy of the imagination.

Rilke & McKay lichtten hun Multatuli-vertaling op Athenaeum.nl toe.

Over Adrift in the Middle Kingdom

Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1898-1936) was a ship's doctor serving in south-east Asia, and is one of the most important twentieth-century Dutch-language writers. His 1934 novel Adrift in the Middle Kingdom (Het leven op aarde), is an epic sweep of narrative that takes the reader from 1920s Shanghai to a forgotten city beyond the Great Wall of China. Slauerhoff's narrator is a Belfast ship's radio operator, desperate to escape the sea, who travels inland on a gun-runner's mission. He moves through extraordinary settings of opium salons, the house of a Cantonese watch-mender, the siege of Shanghai, the great flood on the western plains, and the discovery of oil by the uncomprehending overlord in the hidden city of Chungking. The fantasy ending transforms the novel from travelogue and adventure to existential meditation. But running like a thread of darkness through the story is opium, from poppy head harvesting to death through addiction.

This translation by David McKay, winner of the 2018 Vondel Prize, is the first English edition of Slauerhoff's most accessible and enthralling novel. The Introduction is by Slauerhoff expert Arie Pos and Wendy Gan of the University of Hong Kong.

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