notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘David Colmer’

Interview Gerbrand Bakker

In Awards, Interviews on July 23, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Gerbrand Bakker - Eimer Wieldraaijer
PEN Atlas Editor, Tasja Dorkofikis talks to Gerbrand Bakker about his novel, The Detour (titled Ten White Geese in the US), walking in Wales for two weeks, translating Emily Dickinson and about working with his translator David Colmer.

The Twin brought you much international recognition. Was it difficult to write a new novel after winning the IMPAC? Or was it in some way liberating to know that you have that official stamp of approval?

The Detour was already finished when The Twin was awarded with the IMPAC. It came out in October of 2010 here in Holland. So: no. But: since The Detour (or Ten White Geese in the US) I haven’t written anything, apart from my weblog and the occasional story or column. I simply did not feel like it. What I did do in the end with the prize money was to buy a house with land in The Eifel, Germany. Since the first of December last year I own it, and I go there a lot. One part of the house will be renovated later this spring, and there I will have a – I hope – wonderful, big writing room with only a wood burning stove in it, accessible via a staircase, outside the house. I’ve been having some problems with depression and stuff, and now I feel just fine, writing is not a part of my daily life, but I do feel like I have to have the feeling of wanting to write, if you know what I mean. Usually I’m very happy when I write. I work like a horse then: I don’t think or analyse much, I just move forward until the book is finished.

Read the entire interview with Gerbrand Bakker on

(c) Photo by Eimer Wieldraaijer


What Kwaku Knows – Radio Book

In Masters, Pick of the Week on December 19, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Arthur Japin
Dutch writer Arthur Japin was born in Haarlem in 1956. He studied Dutch Language and Literature at the University of Amsterdam and drama at The Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and the Amsterdam Theatre School. He acted on stage, screen and television for many years.

The publication of his debut novel The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi in 1997 established Arthur Japin’s name as a writer. It is the tragic story of two Ashanti princes Kwasi and Kwame, who were offered as a gift to King William I in 1837. In a beautiful, polished style Japin blended fiction and historic fact into a striking whole. The book sold over 150,000 copies in the Netherlands and won multible awards. It’s been translated into numerous languages, including English, and adapted for stage, screen and opera.

In 2003 Japin published another historical novel In Lucia’s Eyes, which won him the Libris Literature Prize. Inspired by an episode related in the memoirs of Casanova, the story is set in Amsterdam in 1758. An English translation by David Colmer received critical acclaim in the United States.

His most recent novel Director’s Cut sets in Rome and features Italian film director Federico Fellini, with whom Japin found himself caught up in an unlikely love triangle.

His Radio Books story What Kwaku Knows is set in Ghana where young boys dream of being discovered by football scouts and Kwaku is no exception.

“All the boys in Kwaku’s class want to be footballers. So does he. Even more so now. Three months ago, an uburuni was standing at the field behind the school, watching them play. They had done their best. After the game, the man had beckoned to Michael, Kwaku’s best friend. He had visited his parents that evening. He gave them fifty dollars and some pocket money for Michael. He guaranteed that he would turn the boy into a professional footballer…”

What Kwaku Knows by Arthur Japin was translated by Michael O’Loughlin. The story is read by David Swatling.

Self-Portrait of an Other

In Interviews on November 1, 2012 at 10:46 PM

Max Neumann

Dutch novelist Cees Nooteboom discussed his book of prose poems written in response to drawings by Berlin artist Max Neumann on radio KCRW’s Bookworm.  The otherworldly drawings of Max Neumann inspired Nooteboom to write a set of prose poems that complements and echoes Neumann’s work: personal reflections — memories, dreams, fantasies, landscapes, stories and nightmares— and presents. These texts took ten years to be translated into English titled  Self-Portait of an Other, translated by David Colmer.

Self-portrait of an Other

More work by Max Neumann:

A Pond Full of Ink

In Children's books on October 29, 2012 at 3:06 AM

Annie M.G. Schmidt is a household name in the Netherlands, where almost everyone can sing at least one of her songs or recite a couple of lines of her poetry. The jury of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, which she won in 1988, praised her for her ‘ironic tone, witty criticism and a style that is amusing, clear, rebellious and simple to its essence’.

David Colmer has produced sparkling new translations for this collection of her most iconic children’s poems, A Pond Full of Ink. Illustrator Sieb Posthuma presents his own colourful take on Schmidt’s universe, and Irma Boom’s design turns it all into a dazzling whole.

a pond full of ink

The Misfortunates

In Review on October 28, 2012 at 8:18 PM

The Misfortunates

The Misfortunates by Dimitri Verhulst must be one of the funniest books I read in the last few years. If you ever watched Shameless or read a Roddy Doyle novel (Paddy Clark ha ha ha) you’ll get the characters in Verhulst’s funny and also endearing novel. The Verhulsts have the same inverted pride in their own depravity, the same up-yours disregard for respectable society. The odd, ugly, excremental poetry of their grubby lives can be unexpectedly tender as well as uncomfortably funny; this novel continually surprises and intrigues.

In this semi-autobiographical novel, the author describes a childhood spent in a family of uncles – his father Pierre’s siblings – all of whom have fled their wives to return to the more accommodating maternal nest. As they see it, they have been set free to follow their true vocation of unfettered self-destruction through drink. They regard an early death as a fair price to pay. Apart from Dimitri’s grandmother, women are regarded as little more than obstacles to this project. Dimitri’s mother is dismissed as a “bourgeois cow”. The older Dimitri is able to say: “There are two people I hate. One gave birth to me and the other was giving birth to my child.” Women are feared because they awaken a form of self-consciousness and thence a sense of shame.

The Misfortunates is translated by the excellent David Colmer and published by Portobello Books. The film came out in 2010.

Other translated work by Verhulst: Madame Verona comes down the hill

Interview David Colmer

In Interviews on October 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Australian born author and translator David Colmer lives in Amsterdam with his Dutch wife and two daughters. We don’t often give much thought to the translators who make the works of different languages available to us, but a good translation really is a work of art. He translated many novels, poetry and children’s fiction of well-known Dutch and Belgium authors like Hugo Claus, Dimitri Verhulst, Gerbrand Bakker, Annie M.G. Schmidt and Cees Nooteboom.

He is a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize and his translation of Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin won the 2010 Impac Dublin Literary Award. In 2009 he won the NSW Premier’s Award and PEN Medallion.

David Colmer was recently interviewed by Eart Shaw of Writers Radio.

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