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Six weeks in Antwerp: from German cuisine to the Dulle Griet

From mid-February to the end of March, Gonzalo Fernández Gómez stayed in the Antwerp Translators' House. This is his enthusiastic report of six exciting weeks in the city of Brabo.

Gonzalo Fernández Gómez exploring Antwerp

"I have a thing for Antwerp. I love this city. Despite (brief) earlier visits, there is still so much to discover. This was my second stay at the Translators House, six weeks this time, working mainly on Blindly (Blindelings) by Kris Van Steenberge.

The great thing about such a lengthy stay is that you get to meet lots of different people. During this period I had three housemates, and I learned something from all of them. During the first two weeks I was in the company of Birgit Erdmann, and together we enjoyed the unseasonably fine weather in late February, sitting on Dageraadplaats and on the beautiful roof terrace of the Translators House. We exchanged quite a few cooking tips. I learned about German cuisine while she, in turn, took home a Mediterranean recipe for fish in green sauce.

Next up was Tom Van de Voorde, a hyperactive Flemish translator and poet full of opinions, ideas and plans, bursting with joie de vivre. With him I attended a magnificent concert by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra at the Koningin Elisabethzaal, Hayden’s 'Die Jahreszeiten', featuring an 80-strong choir. Truly mesmerising. Tom and I also had lots of conversations about literature, which gave me the chance to learn, among other things, new Flemish phrases.

Finally I was joined by grande dame Mireille Cohendy, who brought tons of experience from France. Like me, Mireille lived in the Netherlands for a long time before she moved back to France. She gave me a glimpse into a life that revolves around literary translation. I hope to keep going as long as she has. She certainly had plenty of good tips, which I was happy to take home with me.

There was also time to stop by the Flanders Literature offices, where I had a long and extremely productive discussion with Elise Vanoosthuyse. We discussed a few recent and forthcoming titles that the two of us would like to pursue. I’m very enthusiastic about them. So lots of work to be done!

Gonzalo Fernández Gómez on the roof terrace of the Translators' House in Antwerp

Unfortunately I had to spend more time in my room than I would have liked in order to meet my deadlines. Nonetheless, I did manage to spend an evening in Brussels, where I attended a reading by Yves Petry hosted by Alicja Gescinska, whose 'At Home in Music' (Thuis in muziek) I will be translating soon. After the reading we met and had a pleasant conversation. We will follow this up when I start work on her book.

Likewise I found time to go and see 'Dulle Griet' at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh. Pieter Bruegel is a painter who has really captured my imagination. So now that one of his best-known paintings is back in Antwerp after a long world tour, I simply had to go and admire it. Incidentally, I went around the museum with an audio tour written and recorded by Jeroen Olyslaegers. A must for anyone who loves art and literature!"

Apr 8th, 2019