Friday, October 31, 2008


I just got off the phone with my Belgian publisher. Our whirlwind tour of Flanders is starting soon (radio, TV, newspapers, the stage -- my oh my!), and we needed to coordinate. Omega Minor is going into its 8th printing. There's even some indications of a small invasion into Holland. Good news.

I was informed that there also seem to be a few Spanish publishers interested in Omega Minor, but that they are unwilling to bite because of the cost of translation. (I have only a vague idea of what kind of meager money translators make, but it's clear that having an OM-sized book -- 250,000 words -- translated is much more costly than having a more typical 75,000 word novel done. Additionally, selling a 750-page novel is more risky than selling a 250-page one, and the profit margins are slimmer, so you're less likely to recuperate that cost.)

That's why the Flemish government subsidizes translations, you yell.

Bear in mind, though, that the pool of translators from Dutch to XXXX is by necessity small. It's simply harder to find a Dutch-Spanish translator than an English-Spanish translator.

But there is an English translation, you now point out. It's been approved by the author (heck, he did it himself!), and it even won a big-ass award! Yup, my French translator, Claro, is doing it that way. He has done Pynchon and Powers, and beautifully so. What better translator could I wish for? He has an excellent feel for the book; his translation samples for OM are magnificent and dead on. I couldn't be happier.

Turns out that the Flemish government only subsidizes Dutch to XXXX translations. None of that twisted English to XXXX stuff, no matter who translated it, and no matter who the English to XXXX translator is. (I hate to bring this up, but baserate probabilities make one believe that translators from the English, by the sheer law of large numbers, would contain a larger subset of truly excellent professionals than translators from the Dutch. Claro is perhaps the case in point.)

Which reportedly made those Spaniards balk and perhaps run.

Consequence: for the time being, no Omega Minor in Spanish or Catalonian.

Which then brings me to the following interesting point: The Flemish government, in its eagerness to promote Flemish literature, is now, in fact, by forcefully adhering to its own rules supposedly crafted to promote said Flemish literature, torpedoing perhaps quite a few translations of what is fast becoming the most internationally successful and acclaimed Flemish novel of the past (20? 50?) years.


I must have misheard this, right? My publisher must be misinformed, no? Pray tell he's just sparing me the humiliation of not being Iberially coveted?


emmy.vankerkhove said...

De Standaard! 'Onverantwoord interessant'?
Toch wel: daardoor ontdekte ik uw blogspot. Wat kan u het toch goed, kort en helder samenvatten allemaal (ik las het interview in DS, het stuk in Mo deze week). Het doet me aan Naom Chomsky denken en zijn onverbloemde kritiek op media, politiek in de VS...
Ik kom zeker terug, af en toe eens lezen wat uw vlotte pen deze keer heeft bedacht. En ik stuur de blogspot door naar mijn vrienden. Ik ken er een paar die dit ook wel zullen willen lezen.

Mark said...

Beste Paul,
Ik heb je vertalingenverhaal, dat mij nogal intrigeerde, even nagetrokken bij je uitgever (die karakteristiek weinig van zeggen was) en bij het Vlaams Fonds voor de Letteren (waar men uiteraard ontkent). Verslag daarvan lees je op

Was een fijn gesprekje trouwens, vorige zaterdag. Had eigenlijk langer moeten duren. Maar misschien komt er nog wel eens een 2de kans.

Paul Verhaeghen said...

Dat was inderdaad een zeer fijn gesprek! Als ik nu niet op een monstercongres in Chicago zat, dan blogde ik nu over mijn Vlaamse literaire avonturen.
Mooi dat het VFL wel mee in zee wil, dan, en dat alles een misverstand is. Trossen gooien naar die Spaanse galjoenen, dus!