Laudation on translator John Nieuwenhuizen

My very first contact with the English translator of my novels was through fax. John Nieuwenhuizen wrote me a friendly introduction letter saying that he was translating Falling and that there were a few points he wanted to check with me. By the questions he asked me, I had the immediate impression that he was not only looking for an accurate translation of words and expressions, but also had a love for the right sound of sentences, the rhythm and the singing of a text.

When I received the translation of this book, and again when I read the translation of In the Shadow of the Ark, I found his transformation was fluid and lovely, his diction elegant, clearly a man in love with two languages rather than one. What surprised me the most is that he had a clear knowledge of historical biblical phrasing. I could feel he had managed to evoke the atmosphere I had intended. He unfolded a language flavoured with the atmosphere of far away and long time ago, without ever becoming imitative. I then knew for certain that Arthur Levine, my publisher in New York, had made the right decision of going all the way to Australia to find the right translator for this book. In Belgium and the Netherlands, John Nieuwenhuizen has built up a reputation as a translator who manages to turn his translations into successes in his own country. He does not only translate. Together with his wife Agnes, he is a tireless advocate of the books he chooses. He does not pick the easy sellers, as we all know. He goes for texts that look for both recognition and alienation, not just easy identification.

I don’t think I am an easy author to translate. I write strange texts and I fuss when I proofread a translation. John always listened to my remarks carefully, and I cannot remember a single solution that was not satisfying. Apart from his qualities as a translator, I have felt incredible support in him. He is my one translator who will send me mail saying: ‘When am I going to translate another book of yours?’ His work is twined with friendship, and that results in translated literature that feels warm in every page.

Anne Provoost, November 2006