Vondel Translation Prize 2015

Laura Watkinson and Donald Gardner awarded

1 October 2015

The jury of the Vondel Translation Prize 2015 has awarded the prize jointly to Laura Watkinson for The Letter for the King, her translation into English of De brief voor de koning by Tonke Dragt, and to Donald Gardner for In Those Days, his translation into English of a selection of poetry by Remco Campert. The jury was made up of British critic Paul Binding and translators David Colmer (Australia) and David McKay (US).

The Letter for the King was published in 2013 by Pushkin Press in London, with the financial support of the Dutch Foundation for Literature. The jury praised the way in which Watkinson manages to convey the tension and lively narrative style of the original book in crystal-clear English. ‘The English reader is effortlessly drawn along by the rapid pace of the story.’

In Those Days was published in 2014 by Shoestring Press in Nottingham, with the financial support of the Dutch Foundation for Literature. ‘In the translation by Donald Gardner, Campert gives the impression of being a poet writing in English,’ according to the jury. ‘Yet the original Dutch still comes through. That is a major achievement.’

Sam Garrett, who has won the Vondel Translation Prize twice, was given an honourable mention for his translation of Tirza by Arnon Grunberg.

Laura Watkinson was born in the United Kingdom and has been a literary translator since 2003, from the moment she settled in the Netherlands. After The Letter for the King, her translation of Tonke Dragt’s Geheimen van het wilde woud (The Secrets of the Wild Wood) was published in September 2015, again by Pushkin Press. She has also translated works by authors including Bibi Dumon Tak, Guus Kuijer, Cees Nooteboom, Karlijn Stoffels, Peter Terrin and Anna Woltz.

Donald Gardner is also from the United Kingdom and has lived in the Netherlands since 1979. He translated an earlier collection of poems by Remco Campert, Steden bij avond (I Dreamed in the Cities at Night), as well as work by other authors including Jan Arends, Maria Barnas, Stefan Hertmans, Hagar Peeters and Peter Verhelst.

The Vondel Translation Prize is awarded every two years for the best book translation into English of a Dutch-language work of literature or cultural history. The prize was created by the British Society of Authors and is financed by the Dutch Foundation for Literature and the Flemish Literature Fund. The sum awarded is €5,000.

In previous years the prize has gone to:

  • David Colmer (De helaasheid der dingen / The Misfortunates, Dimitri Verhulst),
  • Paul Vincent (Mijn kleine oorlog / My Little War, Louis Paul Boon),
  • Sam Garrett (Ararat, Frank Westerman), Susan Massotty (Spijkerschrift / Cuneiform, Kader Abdolah),
  • Diane Webb (Van karmozijn, purper en blauw / Colours Demonic and Divine, Herman Pleij),
  • Sam Garrett (De renner / The Rider, Tim Krabbé),
  • Hester Velmans (Een hart van steen / A Heart of Stone, Renate Dorrestein),
  • Ina Rilke (De virtuoos / The Virtuoso, Margriet de Moor and De omweg naar Santiago / Roads to Santiago, Cees Nooteboom) and
  • Stacey Knecht (Het grote verlangen / The Great Longing, Marcel Möring).

The prize will be presented in London in February 2016.

Peter Bergsma


Peter Bergsma

Director Amsterdam Translators’ House

[email protected]