Now, this is interesting.
There’s a bit of a scandal afoot in the literary world and it involves a Dutch translator personally picked by a prolific poet. By now you should be familiar with Amanda Gorman, the nation’s youngest inaugural poet who melted hearts during President Biden’s inauguration. Now Gorman is taking her work internationally and with that, she chose Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, who won the International Booker Prize in 2020, to translate it.
That, however, sparked an enormous backlash from people offended that the white non-binary writer was chosen to do so. While Amanda wasn’t targeted for her pick, people expressed outrage with Dutch publisher, Meulenhoff who emphasized that Rijneveld was Amanda Gorman’s personal pick.
Journalist and activist Janice Deul in particular said that the writer translating Gorman’s work should be a “spoken-word artist, young, female and unapologetically Black.”
Dubbing Rijneveld an “incomprehensible choice” Deul said that their hiring was a “missed opportunity” and also ticked off names of people who’d be a better fit.
Here’s what Janice Deul had to say via Volkskrant:
“Hen is white, non-binary, has no experience in this field, but according to Meulenhoff is still the ‘dream translator’?
Such a vote of confidence is not often awarded to people of color. On the contrary. Whether in fashion, art, business, politics or literature, the merits and qualities of black people are only sporadically valued – if seen at all. Something that applies squared to black women, who are systematically marginalized.
Nothing to the detriment of Rijneveld’s qualities, but why not opt for a literator who – just like Gorman – is a spoken word artist , young, woman and: unapologetically Black ? […]
I would like to share some names from my personal network. A list that is by no means complete: Munganyende Hélène Christelle, Rachel Rumai, Zaire Krieger, Rellie Telg, Lisette MaNeza, Babs Gons, Sanguilla Vabrie, Alida Aurora, Pelumi Adejumo, Schiavone Simson. All talents that enrich the literary landscape and who often fight for recognition for years. What would it be like to have one of them do the job? Wouldn’t that make Gorman’s message more powerful?
Amid the backlash, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has vacated the translator position.
“I am shocked by the uproar surrounding my involvement in the spread of Amanda Gorman’s message and I understand the people who feel hurt by Meulenhoff’s choice to ask me,” Rijneveld wrote according to The New York Post who translated the message.
So far, Amanda has yet to comment on the uproar.
Janice Deul has thanked Rijneveld for her decision to not translate the poet’s work.
Amid the fallout, Meulenhoff said that Gorman selected the 29-year-old herself, as a “fellow young writer who had also come to fame early.” The publisher added that Rijneveld personally made the decision to step down and the publisher is actively seeking their replacement.
“We want to learn from this by talking and we will walk a different path with the new insights,” said the publishing house’s general director Maaike le Noble in a statement to The Guardian. “We will be looking for a team to work with to bring Amanda’s words and message of hope and inspiration into translation as well as possible and in her spirit.”
What do YOU think about this backlash over the Dutch translator picked to translate Amanda Gorman’s work? Fair or foul???