site.btaHellen Kooijman Translates Bulgarian Authors into Dutch

Hellen Kooijman Translates Bulgarian Authors into Dutch
Hellen Kooijman Translates Bulgarian Authors into Dutch
Hellen Kooijman (BTA Photo)

Hellen Kooijman translates Bulgarian authors and books into Dutch. Thanks to her the Dutch audience can enjoy Georgi Gospodinov's Timeshelter and The Physics of Sorrow, Alek Popov's stories, a guide to Sofia and a collection of Bulgarian culinary recipes.

After graduating in history of Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990s, Hellen Kooijman went to Moscow for six months, where she got to know Bulgarians. "Why shouldn't I learn Bulgarian, nobody knows the language in the Netherlands?" she told herself. She went to Sofia, where she met her husband who is half Bulgarian and half German.

Hellen has worked as a journalist for a long time, she has written many articles about Bulgaria for the Dutch Radio, dozens of articles on Bulgarian topics for various Dutch newspapers and magazines.

She began translating Bulgarian books into Dutch after she got familiar with Bulgarian writer and International Booker Prize winner Georgi Gospodinov. Hellen recalled that she thought to herself that The Physics of Sorrow is a very interesting book and that there should be more Bulgarian books translated into Dutch. She said that at the time there were hardly any. 

"There was Nikolay Haytov, but he was difficult to understand by the Dutch. There were other translated novels. But I thought it was interesting to have Gospodinov translated," Hellen said. She admitted that she loves his books. "It's very important. As a translator, I don't translate everything, I translate what I want. I have the luxury of being able to choose," she noted.

Asked whether Gospodinov was easy to translate, Hellen said that he was not an easy author. "The Bulgarian language is not easy. But if you understand what he wants to say - and I think I completely understand what he wants to say, it's not that difficult. It's hard, but that's that..." Hellen said.

Hellen says of herself that she is not a typical translator. Her main work is with refugees in Utrecht, among whom there are now many Ukrainians. "We give these people the opportunity to learn Dutch so they can get to know our country and our society, we make connections between refugees and Dutch people so they know more about each other," she noted.

She is currently working on the translation of Georgi Gospodinov's Natural Novel, translating Joanna Elmi's new book together with some students from the University of Ghent, Belgium. Hellen believes that the books of these two Bulgarian authors are comprehensible for the Dutch audience.

Time Shelter translated into Dutch has been on the book market in the Netherlands for several months. "There have been very good reviews. Very good," Hellen said.

The translator pointed at the "unfairness" for smaller nations and their underrecognized authors because fewer people can read authors in the original language. "But now there are also European programmes that give subsidies to beginner translators," Hellen noted. She hopes to be able to work with a young translator from Belgium and make new translations together.

Hellen said that she really liked Bulgaria for the spontaneous contact one can have with people there. Hellen said she enjoyed riding the train across Bulgaria and chatting with locals on the way. 

She found it difficult to say how Bulgaria and the Netherlands are similar and different. "I find it difficult to compare people and countries. I honestly don't like that, because people are different: some people are more similar to the Dutch and others are not," she said. There was one thing that Hellen Kooijman thought of as very different between the two countries. "Bulgarians think more about the history of Bulgaria, about the identity of Bulgarians, about the Bulgarian person as he is. In the Netherlands we do not have this collective identity that is still alive in Bulgaria", she concluded.

/YV/

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By 15:43 on 20.06.2024 Today`s news

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