Amanda Gorman's white Dutch translator quits over 'uproar'

The Hague (AFP) –


A Dutch writer has resigned as the translator of poet Amanda Gorman, the young black star of US President Joe Biden's inauguration, after an "uproar" over the fact that a black translator was not chosen.

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, who became the youngest winner of the International Booker Prize last year for their novel "The Discomfort of Evening", was picked for the job by Dutch publisher Meulenhoff.

But after criticism in the Netherlands of the fact that a white translator was chosen, Rijneveld, who uses the non-binary pronoun "they", said they were pulling out of the job of translating Gorman's work "The Hill We Climb".

"My heart and mind are still filled with the events of the last few days," 29-year-old Rijneveld said on Twitter late Monday, adding that they would publish their own poem on the row at the weekend.

"Poetry unites, reconciles and heals."

The appointment of Rijneveld -- whose novel described the effects of a tragedy on a family of religious Dutch cow farmers, from the perspective of a young girl -- had sparked a backlash on social media in the Netherlands.

Activist Janice Deul, who is black, said it was "an incomprehensible choice, in my view and that of many others who expressed their pain, frustration, anger and disappointment via social media."

Deul said there had been a "missed opportunity" not to employ a black translator for Gorman, the US National Youth Poet Laureate, saying that Rijneveld was "white, non-binary, has no experience in this field".

"I am shocked by the uproar surrounding my involvement in the spread of Amanda Gorman's message and I understand the people who feel hurt by Meulenhoff's choice to ask me," Rijneveld had said on Twitter on Friday.

Rijneveld said Gorman's team "has made it known that they still stand behind" them as the choice of translator, adding that it would have been a "great and honourable assignment" to translate her poetry.

"I had poured all my love into translating Amanda's work, seeing it as the greatest task to keep her strength, tone and style. However, I am well aware that I am in a position to think and feel that way, where many are not."

Publisher Meulenhoff said the reactions had "touched us and brought us to new insights" and that they understood Rijneveld's decision.

Gorman, 22, became an international sensation after reciting her original work "The Hill We Climb" at Biden's inauguration, a poem inspired by the attack on the US Capitol that declared that democracy "can never be permanently defeated".

The French translation of Gorman's work is being done by Belgian-Congolese singer Marie-Pierra Kakoma, who goes by the stage name Lous and the Yakuza.