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Literary translation: an art in itself.

Translation is becoming increasingly important in our multilingual society. The amount of attention given to it in the literary field at national and international level has been growing strongly in recent years. Training courses for literary translators have been set up, and writers and translators are increasingly sharing the spotlight in the artistic field.
As a UNESCO City of Literature, it’s important for Leeuwarden that translators are also encouraged, alongside creators and writers. Translators who are familiar with translating Frisian literature into foreign languages are particularly scarce. Literary translation is an art in itself. As the American Robert Frost once remarked, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation”.

Making literary translation an attractive profession goes hand-in-hand with making the literary field attractive. A number of highly experienced translators (Dutch and English natives) studied Frisian especially to translate the book Swallows and Floating Horses, An Anthology of Frisian Literature, which was published in 2018 and opens up an overview of Frisian literature for the rest of the world. In other words, the very existence of a project was enough to get a group of translators enthusiastic about learning Frisian.

By stimulating the literary (translation) climate, we can make Frisian more accessible. One method is by handing out assignments, making it more attractive to translate Frisian at a professional, artistic level. This will result in the use of the Frisian language, among other languages, becoming a matter of course for younger generations – creators and general public – rather than a threshold, all thanks to easy access to a network of translators.

Basically, to achieve an inclusive cultural climate we have to open up our language and culture. Experience shows that other cultural areas both inside and outside the Netherlands are extremely interested in Frisian and the culture of the northern Netherlands: our language, our history, our landscape, and our mysticism. Our task is to make this accessible to others by creating a climate that actively stimulates translation.