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Jane Hedley-Prole: 'It felt like winning the lottery!’

In March 2017, Jane Hedley-Prole, a Dutch-English literary translator, stayed at the Translators’ House (Vertalershuis) in Antwerp. Jane: ‘Until now, my work as a literary translator has had to be squeezed into the space left by my day job in a ministry translation department. It’s meant working at weekends, and during holidays. Devoting myself entirely to a literary assignment has always seemed like an impossible luxury. So getting the chance to stay in the Translators’ House felt like winning the lottery!’

Comfortable and inspiring

Jane Hedley-Prole

‘The accommodation is extremely comfortable – an apartment in an imposing 1920s building that looks like the backdrop for a Wes Anderson film. It’s handily located, close to the offices of Flanders Literature (Vlaams Fonds voor de Letteren) and to the city centre. The facilities are excellent, too: besides a substantial library of Dutch-language books, it’s equipped with everything a translator might need, from a PC and a choice of keyboards to a printer and the 3-volume Van Dale dictionary.

It’s always inspiring to talk to others in the same profession and find out how they approach their work, so it’s an added bonus of the Translators’ House that you get to share the apartment. My flatmate, Jun Mita, taught me a lot about what life is like for literary translators in Japan.

The staff of the VFL were most welcoming and helpful. Karen Thys was a perfect host: always ready to answer questions and offer assistance. During my stay, she organised a lunch at the Translators’ House, which provided a nice, informal opportunity to get to know her and the grants manager for fiction, Michiel Scharpé, and to hear the latest news about Flanders Literature’s work.

For me, one of the nicest discoveries in Antwerp was the city’s shared bicycle system, to which the Translators’ House has a subscription.

During my two-week stay I made great progress with the book I’m translating (‘The Republic’, by Joost de Vries). At the same time I revelled in the chance to immerse myself in Dutch-speaking surroundings. Although I live in the Netherlands, my time there is spent mainly in an English-language bubble, both at home and at work. So when I wasn’t translating during my stay, I spent as much time as possible soaking up local culture, visiting churches, cafés, museums and places like Permeke library and the DeSingel arts centre. I was also able to meet up with a Flemish author, Rudi Rotthier, one of whose books I’d translated, and to hear from Patrick Peeters of Flanders Literature about the most exciting recent Flemish works of nonfiction. By the end of my stay I felt my Dutch had improved.

Discovering Antwerp by bike

For me, one of the nicest discoveries in Antwerp was the city’s shared bicycle system, to which the Translators’ House has a subscription. After swiping a card, you can just take a bike from one of the many ‘bike stations’ around town, and cycle for up to half an hour for free. It proved wonderfully easy to use and I was instantly hooked. After years of struggling with bike locks and trying to find a place to park my own bike, I wondered why Amsterdam had never come up with such an excellent scheme!

In short, it was a most inspiring and productive stay. I felt truly privileged to be a resident of the Translators’ House.’

Mar 20th, 2017