The story of The Chronicles is a story of literature coming down from the “Ivory Tower” of elitist outreach by bringing it “to the streets”. It happens during the Crossing Border Festival, the annual Literature and Music feast in The Hague (NL) and Antwerp (BE) in November with borders mingling in various dimensions (national, arts genre, origins, ages). During the Festival, young international authors are invited to share their impressions in own languages about the city of The Hague within the Festival context. The Chronicles also bring to our attention young translators who get a unique opportunity to be in the spotlight of the stage.
Prologue – About getting there
The Chronicles started with the idea of making literature more accessible to people, especially to a younger audience. While in the first year of the project contributing writers were Dutch, the international aspect came into place for the first time one year later, in 2007 – a natural direction taking into account the character of the Festival itself. [Worth noting, the first international partner to be involved was the British Council Netherlands with whom Crossing Border brought young British and Dutch writers from and to the UK].
The Chronicles were celebrating their fifth anniversary this year in the good company of the authors Ben Brooks (UK), Peter Zantingh (NL), Pola Oloixarac (AR), and Sacha Sperling (FR). The participating translators were: Anne Roetman, Astrid Huisman, Beth Fowler, Katinka Staals, Laura Williams, and Vivien Doornekamp-Glass.
The Language Rich Europe project proudly supported the initiative.
The Chronicles – About the columns
It all starts before the Festival itself with a prologue column from the young writers. They write about their expectations, excitement about being translated into languages they do not know themselves, or simply travel. As Sacha Sperling, a young French author, notes “Aujourd’hui, les mots sont devenus mon passeport.” [Words became my passport today].
07-11-2011 Prologue Pola Oloixarac (Argentina, 1977)
En fin, no sé qué me espera en el festival europeo. ¿Podré, como mi paisana Máxima, alcanzar cierto trato principesco? ¿O me pareceré mas a mis compatriotas sudamericanos que llevan a cabo trabajos mal remunerados para subsistir en tierra neerlandesa? ¿O se parecerá a la zona roja de Amsterdam; un festival que incluye la celebrada carne argentina a manos de una dominatrix holandesa entrada en carnes? Really can’t wait…
During the Festival, each author writes one column per day in her/his own language – each year Dutch, this year also French, Spanish and English. They are immediately translated into other languages. As Federico Fellini said “A different language is a different vision of life” and columns capture it well. In different languages, they allow us to see the Festival and The Hague through eyes that see the world from different perspectives. Young authors enjoy much freedom of expression in relation to the subject – it is about their personal experience and in a loose relation to the Festival, which makes texts varied and also intimate. All the versions including translations can be found on the Crossing Border blog and during the Festival are available fresh from the press to the audience.
18-11-2011 Column 2 Ben Brooks (United Kingdom, 1992)
Does the ‘joy spring’ from the reinterpretation of a good text because the text is good, or is it because the act of translating that makes translation fulfilling. I’m not sure how much sense that made. It’s hard to talk about. Is cooking, or eating the most fun. You have to eat, but you don’t have to cook. And someone else can always cook for you, but they can’t do your eating.
19-11-2011 Column 3 Ben Brooks (United Kingdom, 1992)
We went to the ‘afterparty’ and the DJ was very bad and the only drinks you could order were ‘wine’ and ‘beer’ and ‘bacardi and coke already mixed in a can’. It was fun. I smiled at people and walked around. I talked to Adam Levin a lot and he is one of my favourite authors in the world and I think the way I talked was similar to the way a twelve-year-old girl would talk to Justin Bieber. Sorry, Adam. It is exciting and cold here. Everyone is everyone.
20-11-2011 Column 3 (La dernière nuit) Sacha Sperling (France, 1990)
Au milieu de la nuit, j’ai regardé par la fenêtre. La rue déserte. Spui. On aurait dit une route. J’entendais l’écho des voitures fantômes. J’ai regardé la lune (elle était rousse), et puis de nouveau la rue. Un camion est passé. Un camion énorme. Je n’ai pas eu le temps de lire l’inscription sur le côté. C’était un trente cinq tonne dont les phares projetaient une lumière féroce. Je ne pouvais pas détacher mon regard. Il avançait doucement à travers la brume. Comme en apesanteur. J’ai pensé à la route. Zone de passage. Non lieu. Désert organisé. La route qui donne le sentiment que les choses flottent. Qu’il est facile de flotter soi-même.
The Festival also gives the stage to both writers and translators (on the photo to the left, Ben Brooks on being translated). It is possible to meet them in person and listen to their reflections on the writing and translation processes, which are both very intense taking into account the timelines.
And the last words are written down after the end of the Festival – the last words within The Chronicles as the conversations behind the stage go on… Unlimited…
30-11-2011 Epilogue Peter Zantingh (The Netherlands, 1983)
Elke ochtend schreef ik een column. Op zaterdag las ik op het festival voor wat ik die ochtend, in mijn pyjamabroek op de hotelkamer, geschreven had. Wat ik maakte had direct een publiek. Crossing Border was het mooiste dat me overkwam sinds het boek er is. Echt.
Maar nu wil ik weer schrijven waar niemand het ziet.
Epilogue – About the influence
The Chronicles are more than chronicles of the Festival. More often than not, the project acts as the first Dutch publisher and helps to introduce a new young international writer or translator to the market. The project underlines the importance of translation by raising awareness and appreciation of translation among the audience and also the young writers themselves. After the festival, a selection of the columns is published in The Chronicles magazine (usually in the beginning of the following year). The Festival creates an opportunity for young writers to meet their favourite writers and build on their international network.
All the literary events are combined with various concerts, which definitely makes literature friendlier to the wider audience and more fun to the authors themselves. We are already looking forward to the next year, but first the publication!
A big thank you to Jessa Bertens, Project Coordinator of The Chronicles for all the information and contagious enthusiasm!