In 2006 the Dutch literary manifesto De uitkijkpost van de literatuur (The observatory of literature) stressed the importance of a flourishing culture of literary translation. The 2007 Ten-Point Programme of the Flemish Boekenoverleg called for a greater focus on the cultural and socioeconomic aspects of literary translation. As cultural ambassadors, literary translators are exceptionally well qualified to make cultural traditions accessible. Both the Netherlands and Flanders have a long established, highly-developed translation culture, thanks in part to the subsidies provided by our literary funds, which serve as an example to other European countries. The number of translations from and into Dutch continues to rise, but the profession finds itself under increasing pressure, in terms of both quality and quantity. Although the funds, the Dutch Language Union and the Expertise Centre for Literary Translation (ELV) have been working hard to preserve the knowledge and experience that have been amassed over the years, these efforts alone cannot ensure that connections with other cultures and literatures will be maintained. The pool of translators is ageing, and it is therefore necessary to create a system of lifelong learning, of which a degree programme in literary translation is a crucial component. In the section on literature in its 2007 policy memorandum Innoveren, participeren! (Innovate, participate!), the Dutch Council for Culture endorses the importance of a translation programme at university level and stresses the need for the support of the respective ministries of education and culture in developing such a programme. The Dutch Foundation for Literature (FvdL), the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature (NLPVF), the Flemish Literature Fund (VFL), the Dutch Language Union and the ELV recommend that the ministers:

  • Master’s Programme in Literary Translation Undertake, sometime in the near future, to establish a flexible Master’s Programme in Literary Translation for translators from and into Dutch, preferably in the framework of a bi-national or multinational partnership. Start-up costs = €50,000.
  • Over the course of the next four years, enable the funds and the ELV to further expand their system of lifelong learning for translators working from and into Dutch, in close collaboration with the new Master’s Programme and the literary publishers by:
    1. Scholarships for aspiring translators from Dutch instituting a system of scholarships for aspiring literary translators from Dutch, especially those from economically weaker countries, to optimise their education and training inside and outside the Dutch language area (five scholarships a year at €9,000 each, including enrolment costs and tuition) = €45,000 a year;
    2. Expand system of mentorships enlarging the system of mentorships by doubling the current funding = €20,000 a year;
    3. Intensify translation workshops intensifying the translation workshop programme, especially for translators from Turkey, the Arab world and the BRIC countries = €25,000 a year;
    4. Intensify ‘travelling programme’ increasing funding for the ‘travelling programme’, in which translation experts from the Netherlands and Flanders visit the Dutch departments of foreign colleges and universities = €25,000 a year;
    5. Extra support for Flemish translators providing additional educational opportunities for Flemish translators (five special mentorships and five dual translations) = €30,000 a year.The amounts given above are calculated on the basis of the current distribution formula 2/3 (Netherlands), 1/3 (Flanders).
  • Increase travel and research opportunities for translators from and into Dutch. Translators fulfil an important role as cultural mediators. Cultural mediation is always a two-way street, and when abroad, literary translators are excellently placed to act as ambassadors of their own cultures. We propose to:
    1. Fellowships initiate a number of fellowships that will enable professional literary translators to conduct workshops at foreign universities and other educational institutions (3 x €10,000) = €30,000;
    2. Travel grants for translation centres institute a number of travel grants that will enable translators into Dutch to stay at European translation centres (25 x €250) = €6,250.
  • Increase the public visibility of translators Increase the public visibility of literary translators, which can also contribute significantly to the image of the profession overall. To this end, financial scope will have to be created for co-financing of projects through the Schrijvers School Samenleving and the Flemish Reading Association = €30,000 a year.
  • Protect diversity Enable the literary funds to protect and, wherever possible, increase literary diversity: ‘difficult’ books or genres pose a direct risk for the publisher and demand a great deal of expertise and time on the part of the translator. Through a combination of translation and production subsidies these ‘difficult’ books (often classics of world literature) can reach a new audience without placing an undue burden on the translator. €100,000 a year would enable about ten such translations to be made.
  • Translating culturally significant non-fiction Enable the funds to do more to provide scholarships for the translation of culturally important works of nonfiction into Dutch. All over the world these translations play an essential part at the interface of art and knowledge. Because a great deal of non-literary nonfiction (e.g. cultural-historical texts) falls outside the mandate of the literary funds and is thus ineligible for subsidies, professional translators generally prefer to work on literary projects. Increasing scope for funding translations of non-literary fiction would greatly benefit the quality of such translations.
  • Separate status for literary translation in the European Culture Programme Do more to highlight the importance of literary translation in a European context and insist that the written tradition and the European translation centres be given a special status in the next European Culture Programme for 2014-2021.
  • Legal price agreements Amend the Copyright Act so as to permit or even require price agreements between authors and publishers. This is crucial if self-employed translators are to have a viable future. The amounts given above are calculated on the basis of the current distribution formula 2/3 (Netherlands), 1/3 (Flanders).
  • Dutch Foundation for Literature
  • Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature
  • Flemish Literature Fund
  • Dutch Language Union
  • Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen