When I arrived at NIAS in september 2012, I had brought the first draught with me of my translation of The Wapshot Chronicle, by John Cheever. I planned to start again at page 1, to undertake the long and painstaking process of polishing and correcting, tuning and tweaking, that is necessary to create a Dutch book that reflects its American original.
This creative process is rather similar to writing a book, with the peculiar difference that the translator has not chosen the material, is ‘only’ rendering ready-made material in a different language. Most of the work at this second, finishing stage is finding a voice, a style, and keeping to that style without losing sight of the given content.
This style, this perhaps somewhat weightless, bodiless quality, rests on a very concrete basis of constant, solid research, as the translator is forever looking for words, synonyms, terms, jargon, slang, technical information, names of places and persons, layout of the land, bits of history or climate – the search is endless, prompted by the author’s infinite stream of words and phrases that all need to be understood and weighed. For this research I have made great use of the brains of some of my fellows at NIAS - especially Peter Behrens with his knowledge of New England, the United States in general and John Cheever in particular, has given me a lot of his time and insight to help me interpret Cheever’s prose. Other fellows have contributed on various topics, yet other fellows have accompanied me on mind clearing walks along the sea, or shared meals with me in the Blue Room. All these contacts have given me the feeling that I was surrounded by understanding, helpful, interested people, a very welcome change from the solitary work of this translator.
Then, of course, there is the staff at NIAS, all people who were very much there to help me where possible and, above all, to make me comfortable and welcome. I may not have made great use of the library’s books and access to books, as my research is very much an endless roam through the landscapes of internet, but the beautiful room was a good place to rest the mind with a newspaper or magazine.
Now that my stay at NIAS draws to a close, I can announce that I have finished my translation, and that I am, insofar as this is possible, quite happy with the result. The Wapshot Chronicle is now a Kroniek van de familie Wapshot, and the book will be published in the spring of 2013 by Van Gennep. All the books that I have translated carry a personal history, of where I was living when I worked on them, what the circumstances were, and so on. Some of these circumstances were quite unusual and are therefore etched in my memory and make the books that came through all that a bit special. I already know that The Wapshot Chronicle will take a prominent place among those special books, thanks to NIAS and the Dutch Foundation for Literature.