notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Vincent’

While the Gods Were Sleeping shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

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


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.


Leonard Nolens wins Dutch Literary Prize

In More poetry please on December 2, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Leonard Nolens
The Flemish poet and diarist Leonard Nolens (Bree, 11 April 1947) has received this year’s Dutch Literature Prize. It is the most prestigious prize in Dutch-language literature. The award includes a cash prize of €40,000.

‘Nolens makes Dutch sing again,’ said the jury, chaired by Herman Pleij. The jury called Nolens an ‘exceptional poet and a highly-gifted reader’ and characterised his work as ‘a life-long struggle with language and a quest for his own identity and that of others’.

The winner was overwhelmed by the news on Wednesday morning. He was sitting in his study when Minister Smet called. ‘It was if the outside world was coming inside in some ethereal way’.

Since his debut in 1969, Nolens has amassed an impressive oeuvre. His collection of poems entitled Liefdes verklaringen (Declarations of Love) (1990) was awarded the Jan Campert Prize in the Netherlands and the Triennial State Prize in Belgium. In 1997 he received the Constantijn Huygens Prize for lifetime achievement. In 2008, he was awarded the VSB Poetry Prize for the collection Bres (Breach).

Every three years, the Committee of Ministers of the Dutch Language Union awards the Dutch Literature Prize. The prize is presented to the authors of major literary works originally written in Dutch.

Publisher Querido issued a new, expanded monumental edition of Nolens’ collected works on the occasion of his 65th birthday, entitled Manieren van leven. Gedichten 1975-2011 (Ways of Living. Poems 1975- 2011), which forms a diptych together with Dagboek van een dichter (A Poet’s Diary).

An English translation of Leonard Nolens’ work is expected. Nolens’ peotry was selected for the collection In a Different Light: Fourteen Contemporary Dutch Poets (2002, Seren UK), edited by Robert Minhinnick and Rob Schouten and translted by a.o Paul Vincent

Arriving in Avignon

In Review on November 26, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Arriving in Avignon

The Flemish writer Daniël Robberechts (1937-1992) refused to identify his books as novels, stories, or essays, according them all equal status as, simply, writing.
Dalkey Archive brought his work back into print in 2010 by publishing his dark, multi-genre work, Arriving in Avignon, translted by award winning Paul Vincent. Writing in third person in an unrelenting voice that advances by question and insinuation, Robberechts examines the experiences of his younger self over the course of twenty-one trips he made to the nondescript French town of Avignon. A curious lack of memorable or “significant” experiences despite a near obsessive attraction to Avignon becomes a source of inquiry for Robberechts, and his investigation quickly flowers into a philosophical exercise, played out in the gap between reality and language’s inadequate tools to capture it. Complicating the staid middle-aged Robberechts’ efforts is the young Robberechts’ thundering lust for every female he had even the slightest contact with. By superimposing his erotic longings and thwarted desires onto the town of Avignon itself, Robberechts cleverly equates his inability with being able to apprehend or enter Avignon on a more meaningful level with his self-defeating efforts to become romantically or sexually involved. However, what lifts this work above dull masculinist nostalgia is Robberechts’ anguished and livid frustrations with the slippery nature of reality itself. If Arriving in Avignon is any indication of what Robberechts was capable of, there’s much to look forward to in his forthcoming works.

Source: Critical Mob
An excerpt of Arriving in Avignon can be found on site of Dalkey Archive

The Forbidden Kingdom

In Masters on November 7, 2012 at 9:51 AM

The Forbidden Kingdom - Slauerhoff

Jan Jacob Slauerhoff’s novel The Forbidden Kingdom, first published in 1932, is regarded as an important example of Dutch modernism. Translated from the Dutch by the award-winning Paul Vincent and published by Pushkin Press last August.

Review by the Guardian:

The Forbidden Kingdom is a romantic tale of adventure, seafaring and colonialism, told through an experimental narrative. Vincent’s translation presents a sophisticated form of double Dutch, as two parallel narratives slip back and forth, one concerning the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luis Camoes, the other a nameless 20th-century ship’s radio operator who describes himself as “the most rootless and raceless person alive”. Gradually, their trajectories are set on a collision course whereby Slauerhoff drops heavy hints they may be the same person.

It’s a confounding read, full of false starts, chronological quirks and unreliable narrators. The radio operator passes the time “constantly reading a book on the history of the three empires, which had the advantage that you never finished it, since by the end you had forgotten the beginning”. You lay this one aside understanding how he feels.

Discovering Louis Paul Boon

In Masters on October 30, 2012 at 9:00 PM

Louis Paul Boon

In 2009 Dalkey Archive Press published the first English translation of My Little War by the Flemish author Louis Paul Boon (1912–1979). According to the publisher Boon has suffered a near-complete critical neglect in English. Despite having written an enormous amount over an extensive career, Boon remains almost entirely untranslated in English until very recently. Boon’s early novels were conventionally structured historical treatments of nineteenth-century working-class life, but his exposure to major modernist figures such as Céline, Joyce, and Dos Passos changed his literary direction; he would go on to produce such modernistic fare as Chapel RoadSummer in Termuren, and My Little War. These novels, considered major classics of Dutch literature, remain almost unknown in the English-speaking world. My Little War was translated by the talented Paul Vincent.

On the publisher’s website you’ll find an excerpt (1st chapter) of My Little War

Here’s a review published on


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