notes on dutch literature

While the Gods Were Sleeping shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

In Awards, Masters on April 11, 2015 at 5:39 PM

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The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was inaugurated by British newspaper The Independent to honour contemporary fiction in translation in the United Kingdom. This year eminent Dutch-language Belgian author Erwin Mortier’s While the Gods Were Sleeping is one of the contenders, joined by literary giant Haruki Murakami, German authors Jenny Erpenbeck and Daniel Kehlmann, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel from Equatorial Guinea and Colombian Tomás González. The winner will be presented with the prize at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 27 May.

Helena’s mother always said she was a born poetess. It was not a compliment. Now an old woman, Helena looks back on her life and tries to capture the past, filling notebook after notebook with memories of her respectable, rigid upbringing, her unyielding mother, her loyal father, her golden-haired brother. She remembers how, at their uncle’s country house in the summer of 1914, their stately bourgeois life of good manners, white linen and afternoon tea collapsed into ruins. And how, with war, came a kind of liberation amidst the mud and rubble and the appearance of a young English photographer who transformed her existence.

Lyrical and tender, filled with images of blazing intensity, While the Gods Were Sleeping asks how it is possible to record the dislocation of war; to describe the indescribable. It is a breathtaking novel about the act of remembering, how the past seeps into our lives and how those we have lost leave their trace in the present.

While the Gods Were Sleeping was translated by acclaimed translator Paul Vincent and published by Pushkin Press.

Erwin Mortier made his mark in 1999 with his debut novel Marcel, which was awarded several prizes in Belgium and the Netherlands, and received acclaim throughout Europe. While the Gods were Sleeping received the AKO Literature Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the Netherlands.

Paul Vincent taught Dutch at the University of London for over twenty years before becoming a full-time translator. He has translated a wide variety of literature from Dutch, including Louis Couperus’s Inevitable and the Hidden Force as well as J.J. Slauerhoff’s The Forbidden Kingdom for Pushkin Press. In 2012 he was awarded the Vondel Translation Prize.

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World Editions

In Pick of the Week on February 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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New publishing house World Editions aims to make the most promising international literary titles available for the greatest possible audience and bringing remarkable authors to the global market by translating their work into English.

Two Dutch books were just published in the World Editions series: Craving by Esther Gerritsen and Gliding Flight by Anne-Gine Goemans

Craving was nominated for the Libris Literature Prize, the Opzij Prize and the Dioraphte Literary Award.

The relationship between Coco and her mother Elisabeth which is uneasy, to say the least. Running into each other by chance, Elisabeth casually tells Coco that she is terminally ill. When Coco moves in with her mother in order to take care of her, aspects of their troubled relationship come to the fore once again. Elisabeth tries her best to conform to the image of a caring mother, but struggles to deal with Coco´s erratic behavior and unpredictable moods.

Gliding Flight is is the second novel of Anne-Gine Goemans.  The novel was awarded the Dioraphte Literary Award and the German M Pionier Award for new literary talent.

Inventive, dreamy Gieles lives with his father and a flock of geese on a spotters’ campground next to an airstrip. Gieles is longing for affection—from the mysterious dreadlocked girl he has met online, and also from his mother, who is always away on hopeless missions to save the world. With an ingenious but dangerous plan he tries to attract their attention.

Classic novel De Avonden translated by Pushkin Press

In Masters on February 12, 2015 at 9:23 AM

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Gerard Reve’s classic novel De Avonden (The Evenings) is to be translated into English for the first time, almost 70 years after it was first published. Reve is considered one of the great figures of post-war Dutch literature.

De Avonden was Reve’s debut novel, first published in 1947 when he was 24. The book revolves around Frits van Egters, who is 23 and has a boring office job. The 10 chapters depict in painstaking detail the last 10 days of the year Frits spends with his family, office colleagues and friends.

Provocative and witty, The Evenings could be described as a Dutch equivalent to Camus’s The Outsider, but the protagonist’s heartfelt yearning for meaning and the novel’s uncanny, twilit atmosphere make it like nothing else I’ve ever read. I absolutely love this book, which is consistently voted as one of the best Dutch novels of all time, and we’re thrilled to be adding it to the Pushkin list. Daniel Seton, Commissioning Editor.

The Evenings is being published in Britain by Pushkin Press and translated by prize-winning Sam Garrett, who has previously translated work by Herman Koch, Arnon Grunberg and Geert Mak.

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