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Annelous Stiggelbout


  A translator of Chinese literature into Dutch. She has been active as a freelance translator since 2006. Stiggelbout has been translating for major Dutch publishing houses and periodicals, including works of Mian Mian, Zhu Wen, Sheng Keyi, Bi Feiyu, Liu Zhenyun, etc. Her translation of Sahara Stories by Sanmao will be published in March 2019, which is the first ever translation of Sanmao’s work into Dutch. Stiggelbout is also involved in the promotion of Chinese literature in Netherlands, assisting in various festivals and activities aimed at increasing interest in this field.

  Q1 What motivated you to spend quite a long time in studying Chinese language and culture?

  After studying Chinese language and culture in university, of course I wanted to continue to expand my knowledge on China and my Chinese language skills. I have held various jobs since graduating: librarian at the Chinese library of Leiden University, policy officer at the Dutch embassy in China… But I had always loved to read, and what I really wanted was to be a literary translator. I had been working in this field from 2006, even before I graduated, publishing in the literary periodical Het Trage Vuur (文火) and other publications. In 2013 I got the opportunity to translate my first book, Mijn generatie (This Generation) by Han Han. From then on, I was able to become a full-time literary translator. I owe a lot to my teachers and mentors, who helped me on this path, such as Anne Sytske Keijser, Mark Leenhouts, Jan De Meyer and Silvia Marijnissen.

  Q2 How did you objectively show the readers the real Chinese culture and China’s change & development in recent years?

  In the Netherlands, publishing houses decide which foreign books they wish to publish. The publishing house buys the rights to the book and then asks a translator such as myself to translate it. A translator can of course also propose books to a publishing house and translate the book if the publishing house decides to buy it. I try to keep up with young, modern authors who reflect the latest developments in Chinese culture and China as a country and suggest those authors to publishers. It is important that Dutch readers can read about the diversity and plurality of the modern China.

  When I translate a book, I always strive to translate everything, including jokes, puns and cultural references. This is sometimes really difficult, but at the same time the most difficult phrases are also the most fun puzzles to solve. I don’t leave anything out and don’t move anything: I believe that I should translate the book as the author wrote it. However, I do sometimes add a few words or a full sentence. If there is a cultural reference Dutch readers won’t understand, I always to my best to explain it in the text, but without taking the reader out of the story.

  Q3 What do you think are the challenges and difficulties facing China in aspects of translating and publishing Chinese works in foreign countries ?

  The main problem in introducing Chinese literature to a Dutch audience is that Dutch readers are not very familiar with the Chinese literary landscape and don’t recognize the authors and titles, and therefore don’t read a lot of Chinese literature, and therefore they are not familiar with the Chinese literary landscape, etcetera. In a way, it is a vicious circle. An additional problem is that reading in general is in slow but steady decline in the Netherlands. As a result, big publishing houses are hesitant to publish foreign literature. However, there are some indications that smaller publishing houses may be taking over on the foreign literature front.

  Q4 What challenges and opportunities do you think will be brought to China and your country by the Belt and Road Initiative?

  As I understand the Belt and Road Initiative, it will bring more economic possibilities to the Netherlands. I hope that with the increase in economic interactions, the Dutch will also become more interested in China’s culture and will want to read more Chinese literature. I will be happy to translate it for them.