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International Booker winner Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has stepped down as the Dutch translator of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman’s upcoming poetry collection amid backlash that a Black translator was not chosen.
Please note that Gorman chose Rijneveld as her Dutch translator.
“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 wrote about his decision to step away from the project. “I had happily devoted myself to translating Amanda’s work, seeing it as the greatest task to keep her strength, tone and style. However, I realise that I am in a position to think and feel that way, where many are not. I still wish that her ideas reach as many readers as possible and open hearts.”
The backlash was sparked by Dutch activist Janice Deul who penned an op-ed for Dutch outlet De Volkskrant.
She slammed the decision to select Rijneveld: “An incomprehensible choice, in my opinion and that of many others who expressed their pain, frustration, anger, and disappointment via social media,” wrote Deul.
“And her work and life have been colored by her experience and identity as a Black woman. Is it — to say the least — not a missed opportunity to hire Marieke Lucas Rijneveld for this job?” she added. “Nothing to detriment of Rijnveld’s qualities, but why not choose a writer who — just like Gorman — is a spoken word artist, young, female, and unapologetically Black?,” said Deul.
While some have called the decision to hire a young, white male to translate “The Hill We Climb” as utterly tone-deaf, some are arguing that the uproar is much ado about nothing, as Rijneveld was personally selected by Gorman.