Henk Pröpper, Director Dutch Foundation for Literature
2011 Beijing International Book Fair Country of Honour: Netherlands
In two weeks’ time, the official opening of one of the largest book fairs in the world will take place - that of Beijing.
This year, the Netherlands is to be country of honour. The opening ceremonies will be performed by the Dutch State Secretary Halbe Zijlstra, together with the Chinese minister of culture Cai Wu, on 31 August at 9am, Chinese time. This will be followed by a guided tour of the 1,500m2 Dutch stand, conceived by Ira Koers and Roelof Mulder.
Potentially, both countries have much to gain from reaching a discerning reading public.
The Dutch presentation, called Open landscape - open book, refers expressly in both its design and its programmatic approach to transparency and openness - characteristics that have been historically ascribed to the Netherlands, also from a Chinese perspective.
The past months have been very much taken up with the preparations. A programme has been devised for the more than 20 accompanying authors (see list), who by means of readings, book presentations, conversations with Chinese colleagues will seek to establish contact with the Chinese reading public. All the Dutch authors present have recently had work translated into Chinese. Dozens of new translations will be presented in the course of the fair, including works by such writers as W.F. Hermans, Cees Nooteboom, Herman Koch, Geert Mak, Sander Bais, Sieb Postuma and Annemarie van Haeringen. A special feature will be the visit of HRH Princess Laurentien, whose Mr Finney and the World Turned Upside-down is to appear in a Chinese translation. A programme has been prepared for Princess Laurentien designed to appeal to both adults and children, partly linked to the themes dealt with in her literary work - endurance and the richness of a childlike eye - and partly to her efforts to promote reading and literacy.
Apart from the many writers, designers and illustrators, representatives of 16 Dutch publishers will also be taking part and for the first time in history be making the acquaintance of the Chinese book market and their Chinese colleagues. The aim is for lasting contacts to be forged between Dutch and Chinese publishers, so that two-way translations of important literary works will be made possible.
In recent years, interest in Dutch literary works has grown considerably in China. Translators such as Mark Leenhouts are making great efforts to awaken an interest in the Netherlands for both classical and new Chinese literature, for such authors as Mo Yan and Su Tong. Potentially, both countries have much to gain from reaching a discerning reading public. The Dutch stand is not only one of spectacular proportions, and -thanks to the cloud that floats above it - one with a strong appeal; it also has sufficient space for a variety of expositions and activities. The organising parties expect there to be considerable interest in the exhibitions of graphic design, children’s book illustrations and, especially, the exhibition featuring the letters of Vincent van Gogh. The intention is for a complete translation of the Collected Letters of Vincent van Gogh to be completed in 2013.