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Summer in the city of Olyslaegers and Lanoye

In June, translator Mateja Seliškar Kenda stayed in the Antwerp Translators' House for two weeks. Read all about her inspiring stay in her enthusiastic report.

The flat and the flatmate

The last time I was in Antwerp for work was in February 2009. Back then it rained and snowed, making it too cold for long walks around the city. A world of difference between then and now: a warm June meant I got to visit some other Belgian cities too. I shared the apartment with fellow translator Jonathan Reeder, and together we talked and laughed a lot. He knew a great deal about the city, and we had fascinating conversations about art (literature and music especially), about America, the Netherlands and Slovenia, about the differences between Flemish and Dutch, about our lives. There is some overlap in the work we have translated – he into English, me into Slovenian. We also discovered that this autumn we will be working on the same novel: 'De pelikaan’ by M.M. Driessen. In short, I had been very lucky with my flatmate.

Lunch at the Translators' House

This was my first time at the Translator's House in Zurenborg. The apartment is perfectly decorated, comfortably accommodates two and provides everything you need as a translator. We read the papers every day and went through the cultural supplements with particular interest. A subscription to the City of Antwerp's bikes enabled us to get around the city quite easily.

Work and relaxation

Work went well: within two days I submitted the translation I had not finished at home, allowing me to get started on the next one straightaway: the novel ‘Up to Date' by Christophe van Gerrewey. Karen and Michiel arranged for me to meet the author in Ghent – a lovely experience and very useful for my translation too.  

Most days I would work until four or five o'clock in the afternoon before heading into the city. The city I had already read – and translated! – so much about! Now I got to explore the Antwerp of van Ostaijen, Berckmans, Olyslaegers, Lanoye, Vanhauwaert and others for myself. I visited different neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct character. I sauntered around without a map; if I did not know where to go next, I asked for directions – a good way to practice my Flemish. I attended a stand-up comedy night, visited museums, churches and bookshops, watched a football match on a screen on the Grote Markt, drank beer in pub 'Het Elfde Gebod' and was moved by the statue of Nello and Patrasche on the square.

The statue of Nello and Patrasche near the Antwerp cathedral

Later in the evening I would read, sometimes until the early hours, often several novels at a time. That's how it goes: a translator has to read and read to be in a position to propose potential new projects to publishers.

The Flanders Literature dream team

Welcoming, helpful, open and flexible: a team like the one at Flanders Literature is rare and I am intensely grateful for the wonderful experience I had in Antwerp. Although everyone at Flanders Literature is busy working on several projects, they still make plenty of time for the translators. First off, Karen, Michiel and Noemi came to see us with a nice lunch. We really enjoyed ourselves, laughing and talking about the literary scenes in the US, Slovenia and Flanders. A few days later I went to visit the offices of Flanders Literature. During my three hours there I spoke with Lien about YA literature and graphic novels, with Elise about literature for adults and with Patrick about theatre in Flanders. I joined the whole team for another nice lunch and went home with a stack of books that I'm currently reading so I can recommend them to a publisher. Who knows, maybe I'll be back in Antwerp with a new assignment!

Jul 30th, 2018