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Raising a glass to the Hungarian version of ‘Mazel tov’

In September it was Judit Gera’s turn to work at the Translators’ House in Antwerp. This is the Hungarian translator’s account of two weeks full of special moments and encounters.

Judit Gera and Margot Vanderstraeten on the Translators’ House roof terrace
Judit Gera and Margot Vanderstraeten on the Translators’ House roof terrace

I spent the second half of September at the beautiful Translators’ House in Antwerp where I worked on the Hungarian translation of Mazel tov by Margot Vanderstraeten. Working conditions in the house are ideal: a comfortable apartment in a gorgeous building, a roof terrace with a great view of the city, peace and quiet, a personal library, newspapers delivered to the door, a television and a cleaner (with special thanks to Youssef!). The warm welcome by Karen completed the picture.

New connections

During my stay I got to meet Margot Vanderstraeten and her agent, Christiane Corluy. One sunny afternoon on the Translators’ House roof terrace I was able to put my questions about the text to her. While we talked, we were being filmed by a TV crew for a Flemish television programme in which Margot will soon appear. Christiane showed me round the Jewish neighbourhood where ‘Mazel Tov’ is set and we had a meal together at kosher restaurant Hoffy’s. I also joined a walk, organised by religious community Sant’ Egidio, to commemorate the city’s victims of the holocaust.

The original 'Mazel tov' and two published translations
The original 'Mazel tov' and two published translations

I really appreciated my contact with the author: she is very involved and shows a real interest in others, and later she would answer all my questions about the text in detail via email. Thanks to her and her agent I learned a lot about the diversity of the Jewish community in Antwerp. At their recommendation I purchased some fascinating books on the topic, which will certainly add to the background knowledge I need for the translation. Both Margot and Christiane are extremely warm people and I feel I developed a real bond with them. I genuinely hope that ‘Mazel Tov’ will get the recognition it deserves in Hungary.


This was my first visit to the Translators’ House in Antwerp. What struck me, among other things, was that everybody at Flanders Literature was exceptionally friendly and helpful and dealt with all my questions and requests, and the enthusiastic and warm atmosphere made me feel right at home. The presence of my Romanian colleague Gheorghe Nicolaescu was equally inspiring. We spoke at length about the ups and downs of our beautiful profession, literary translation, and we visited the amazing MAS museum, where we admired objects associated with Antwerp’s international relations through the ages. I also had the opportunity to have lunch with Joseph Pearce and to talk to him about future translation plans, specifically his novel ‘Fatherland’, another book that revolves around Jewish history and identity.

I had a wonderful time and for that I would like to thank everybody involved. I wish the team at Flanders Literature success with their important work, the promotion of Flemish literature abroad. In other words: Mazel tov. And hopefully we will meet again at the launch of ‘Mazel Tov’ in Budapest!

Oct 21st, 2019