A Dutch writer has opted out of her assignment to translate the work of inaugural and Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman after controversy over the choice of a white writer for the job.
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 29, last year became the youngest writer ever to win the International Booker Prize, for her debut novel “The Discomfort of Evening.” She announced her change of heart in a tweet referencing the publisher, Meulenhoff.
“I am shocked by the uproar around my involvement in the dissemination of Amanda Gorman’s message, and I understand people who feel hurt by the choice of Meulenhoff to ask me,” the poet and novelist wrote, according to The Guardian. “I had happily devoted myself to translating Amanda’s work, seeing it as the greatest task to keep her strength, tone and style. However, I realize that I am in a position to think and feel that way, where many are not. I still wish for her ideas to reach as many readers as possible and open hearts.”
Criticism of the choice, which was sanctioned by Gorman, was spearheaded by journalist and activist Janice Deul. There are many literary artists of color who could do the job just as well, Deul wrote in an opinion piece about the choice in the national daily newspaper de Volkskrant. While she said she had the highest regard for Rijneveld’s prowess, translating the words of the U.S.’ youngest ever inaugural poet afforded an opportunity to highlight the skills of a Dutch counterpart.
“Why not opt for a writer who – just like Gorman – is a spoken word artist, young, woman and: unapologetically Black?” Deul wrote, listing several people who fit the bill, “all talents who have enriched the literary landscape and who have fought for recognition for years.”
Meulenhoff’s reasoning was that Rijneveld, who identifies as both male and female and uses they/them personal pronouns, and Gorman are both “young and successful and not afraid to speak out,” the English-language site Dutch News reported.
Meulenhoff general director Maaike le Noble said in a statement that the publisher wants to learn from the experience.
“We want to learn from this by talking and we will walk a different path with the new insights,” le Noble said, according to The Guardian. “We will be looking for a team to work with to bring Amanda’s words and message of hope and inspiration into translation as well as possible and in her spirit.”
With News Wire Services