Flemish authors promote translations in Budapest
‘I’m proud to be part of a small language area with a flourishing literary scene full of quirky authors some of whom can make their way out into the world.’ So wrote Jeroen Olyslaegers in a popular post on Facebook, shortly before leaving for Budapest for the launch of the Hungarian translation of his ‘Wildevrouw’. Roderik Six and Margot Vanderstraeten also travelled to the Hungarian capital to promote translated editions of their books. Our colleague Patrick Peeters visited the Budapest International Book Festival and wrote about his experiences.
After a positive time in Prague in 2022, we decided that Flanders Literature would take part in German Stories/European Stories again this year. It’s a scheme in which the Frankfurt Book Fair offers representatives of smaller languages the opportunity to rent space on its stand at certain less often visited book fairs in other countries. They are able to present some books and have a table at which to receive guests. The Frankfurt Book Fair also takes care of all the logistical requirements. This year we opted for the 28th Budapest International Book Festival. For literature from Flanders, this was still to some extent unexplored territory. Furthermore, the Netherlands was guest of honour. At the Festival we spoke mainly with Hungarian publishers who are making room on their lists for translated work.
Before, during and after the book fair in Budapest, a great many activities took place involving authors from Flanders. This would not have been possible without the unceasing efforts and financial support of the Flemish Representative for Central Europe, Koenraad Van de Borne, and the head of the Diplomatic Representation of Flanders in Budapest, Zsuzsanna Lenart.
During the book fair in Budapest, the Flemish Representation organized a Translators Evening in its offices, where twenty translators and teachers of Dutch could meet over drinks and canapes. In his welcoming address, Koenraad emphatically thanked the translators and stressed the importance of their role as ambassadors for our literature.
During the fair, the Pes Text Festival also took place in the city, where readers could watch their favourite foreign authors at work, and where it was possible to meet Hungarian publishers. On the Sunday we attended the ‘Day of the Dutch Book’ in Café Kelet. This was a heartwarming initiative by several translators and teachers of Dutch, who organized a sale of second-hand Dutch-language books, so that their students could stock up on reading matter at very reasonable prices.
At the fair, Roderik Six was a noted guest. Roderik, who also gave a talk at the Karolí University, presented the Hungarian translation of ‘Vloed’ during an animated conversation in the Magda Szabo Hall. To a packed room and in the presence of his publisher Helikon and translator Tibor Bérczes, he was interviewed by Zsuzsanna of the Diplomatic Representation of Flanders and by László Valuska, literary critic and director of the Margó Fesztivál.
Budapest is the cradle of Hassidic Judaism, and many other Jewish people too, including those of little faith or none, come from this region. Which made it the ideal city for Margot Vanderstraeten to present the Hungarian translations of her ‘Mazzel Tov’ and ‘Minjan’ (Európa Könyvkiadó) in one of the most important synagogues, to a highly attentive audience. This took place on the first floor, since it coincided with an exhibition by Dan Zollmann, the photographer who is at the centre of the first chapter of ‘Minjan’, and depictions of people are not permitted in the sacred spaces of a synagogue.
Just as the Danube flows through Budapest and separates the two halves of the city, Buda and Pest, that’s how I’d like to present literature during my visit. As a stream of words and stories that connects people and opposite banks.MARGOT VANDERSTRAETEN
The war between Hamas and Israel had just broken out, which made the exhibition particularly moving for Margot. ‘Just as the Danube flows through Budapest and separates the two halves of the city, Buda and Pest, that’s how I’d like to present literature during my visit. As a stream of words and stories that connects people and opposite banks, bringing those different worlds together, for a short time at least. There are eleven bridges over the Danube in Budapest. When I, along with translator Judit Gera, present ‘Minjàn’ to a packed Hungarian audience, I feel that together we form a bridge between different countries. That is quite something.’
Descendant of Pieter Bruegel
The last author from Flanders who visited Budapest, to present the Hungarian translation of his ‘Wildevrouw’, was Jeroen Olyslaegers. The book launch took place in a brown jazz bar below the Goethe Institute, the place where the Diplomatic Representation of Flanders has its offices. In tune with the theme of the book, no jazz was played but instead sixteenth-century music from Antwerp. The translator of ‘Wildevrouw’ is Miklós Fenyves and the publisher is Miklós Nagy for Libri Könyvkiadó.
In his column in De Morgen, Jeroen writes, ‘Three days in Budapest and you’re no longer yourself. Surrounded by such an unfamiliar language, you become the author of “Vadasszony”, the Hungarian version of “Wildevrouw”. You have taken on a role. There’s nobody you really know; you observe, and that proves enticing. With any luck your Hungarian listeners will have seen you as a direct descendant of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.’