Not that I had forgotten, not really, but it was rather shameful to receive an email from Cees politely wondering when he could look forward to receiving my epilogue, otherwise known as ‘A Complete Summary of Crossing Border and Literary Translation’.
1. Forgetting that some of the events will be in Dutch.
As everyone in The Netherlands speaks such good English, it was a surprise when, for some inexplicable reason, many still chose to speak in Dutch.
2. Best performance in a language I couldn’t understand.
Wim de Bie at the teachers’ seminar on how to save Holland from illiteracy. Apparently this man is very famous in The Netherlands, and indeed, he has the hand gestures and furry hat to prove it. I was laughing along with everyone else, even though I had no idea what he was saying. Unfortunately Priya has already used a line about laughter that needs no translation, so I can’t slip that in here.
3. Most embarrassing literary moment
Thinking Sophie Cerutti would be on stage in 10 minutes with her 160-character text message poems, so chatting to her beforehand and saying how interesting the project sounded and how much I was looking forward to her set. But then the time she was due to perform kept slipping (or more likely I had miscalculated) while the stage was set up for the musicians that would follow her, so that in the end I had to get up and apologise, “actually, although I’ve been saying how much I’m looking forward to listening to your work, I’m going to leave now to listen to Niels ‘t Hooft in the other building instead. Bye.”
Later realised her poems would have been in Dutch anyway. As was Niels’ set.
4. Better left unsaid: on two people suddenly finding they have very different outlooks, but both being too polite to mention it.
Rochita, the Filipino-Dutch writer whose memoir piece on allochtonen I had misquoted earlier, came to The Hague from Bodegraven with her 8 month old son to meet me for lunch. We had never met before, only emailed, and sometimes it’s hard to be confronted by the reality of a person. She was so lovely, and came with several presents for me, including a book entitled Philippine Values and Our Christian Beliefs. I looked at it and said thank you. Later we swapped blog addresses so I wrote down mine in her notebook: myspace.com/anticrista. She looked at it and said thank you. I hope she still likes me.
5. Little Epiphanies
a) not only is ‘festival’ the same word in English and Dutch, but so is ‘glamour’, the art of making things appear other (usually lovelier) than they are; surely another aspect of the translator’s art
b) words don’t translate well, only stories and ideas
c) on the beauty of ephemera: it’s difficult to summarise for posterity ‘everything about translation’ in under 500 words.