Dutch literature in 35 languages

De dochter (in English: 'The Daughter') by Jessica Durlacher in Chinese or De ontdekking van de hemel (in English: 'The Discovery of Heaven') by Harry Mulisch in Italian: from October 1 there will be 120 translations of books by Dutch authors available to read in the TU Delft Library.

The books will be kept in a separate bookcase in the central hall of the university library. At present the bookcase contains literary books in other languages – haphazardly arranged – but none of them is literature translated from Dutch.

And that is exactly what will give it added value, thinks Florien Velsink. She is a mechanical engineering student who is involved in stocking the bookcase as a member of the board of the language buddy project, Tandem. ‘Foreign students and staff can find out more about Dutch literature and culture by reading books by Dutch authors in their own language,’ she says. In addition, the library is promoting these books as a way for Dutch people to learn a foreign language easily.

The 120 books that will be in the bookcase from October 12 have been donated by the Dutch Foundation for Literature. Some of them used to be kept in the library at Schiphol, which was recently closed down. It was that library that gave Marion Vredeling, the Library programme manager, the idea for the bookcase in Delft. She went to take a look and then approached the students in Tandem.

They were immediately enthusiastic, Velsink said. The bookcase will hold books in 35 languages: in English and Spanish of course, but also in Macedonian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. Het diner (‘The Dinner') by Herman Koch will soon be available to read in English, as will Nooit meer slapen ('Beyond Sleep') by Willem Frederik Hermans. Het zijn net mensen (in English: 'People Like Us') by Joris Luyendijk will be there in Georgian and De eeuw van mijn vader by Geert Mak in Greek. There is one disadvantage, however. The books will not be included in the library’s catalogue and can only be read in the library.

Velsink expects that there will be enough interest in them nonetheless. ‘Of course you‘ll always have international students and staff who can hardly say thank you in Dutch after two years. But there are others who want to stay and work in the Netherlands. For them, it’s an accessible way of getting to know the country and its people.’

The student sees these international students and staff at Tandem too. It is a website where people who want to practise a language with a buddy can find each other. More than a thousand people have registered on the site, but there is a shortage of Dutch people, Velsink told us. They have to want to learn the other person‘s language too. Velsink has had several buddies herself. ‘It's fun and you sometimes get asked very odd questions. Like: what does hoor mean in ja, hoor? H’m, nothing really.’

The translated books can be found in the central hall of the TU Delft library from October 1. The official opening will take place in the Hive that day, from 17.00 onwards. Various students will read passages from books in their own languages and afterwards, there will be some workshops.

The books can only be read in the library.