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Janice Deul on 'translationgate': 'Surely you can expect people in the literary world to be able to read?' Nerd podcast #10

Stage poetry is usually considered less high than written poetry. Whereas stage poets can touch so strongly. Only during the Night of Poetry, held every year in Utrecht, do we honour the performers among the poets. After that, it is again the 'jokers' who can rhyme, as was recently written about Ingmar Heytze in A podcast announcement.

Spoken Word, the stage poetry born of hip-hop, is a little lower still on the literary Olympus. So the confusion in literary Holland was great when Amanda Gorman, a Spoken Word artist of just over 20, managed to stir the whole world from the highest stage in the US. Asked for a translation, publisher Meulenhoff offered to honour internationally lauded literary poet Marieke Lucas Rijneveld with the job, even though she barely speaks English and they lack experience as a translator.


Journalist and fashion activist Janice Deul vroeg wondered in De Volkskrant why no young, black spoken word artist had been sought to translate Amanda Gorman's legendary spoken word poem The Hill We Climb, spoken at Joe Biden's inauguration. Afterwards, a shitstorm loose in which it was shouted that it was apparently a requirement that people who had not experienced something could not act as translators of someone who had experienced something. Janice Deul wrote something else, of course, but on social media you don't read the source, only the reactions.

In this podcast with Janice Deul, Marijn Lems and Wijbrand Schaap look back at what has now become something of a TranslationGate has become. Everything, as always, turns out to be much more nuanced. Alone, in a world riven by cancel culture and populist-racist electoral gains for BBB, FvD, JA21 and PVV are determined, we would rather turn every reasonable request into a declaration of war.

We talk about the need for a broader view in the literary world, and less fear of the unknown. It is a pleasant conversation with someone who - after her Volkskrant article - has been asked for interviews all over the world, but has hardly been heard of in Dutch media.

Therefore, now exclusively on Culture Press.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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