Skin color & translating Gorman

Was just reading today that Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, a Dutch International Booker winner, will not be translating Gorman’s poetry after criticism at a site/journal called de Volkskrant. A journalist and activist named Janice Deul led the criticism, essentially expressing outrage that a young and black translator wasn’t hired—and this despite the fact that Gorman (if I’m reading the article correctly) chose Rijneveld herself. I could probably read the article at de Volkskrant (Dutch is somewhat close to German), but I refused the site’s cookies.

Deul was quoted as calling the choice “incomprehensible”; and followed that up with the ‘people-are-saying‘ fallacy. “Many others [have] expressed their pain, frustration, anger and disappointment via social media,” she wrote, and continued: “Isn’t it – to say the least – a missed opportunity to [have hired] Marieke Lucas Rijneveld for this job? They are white, nonbinary, have no experience in this field, but according to Meulenhoff are still the ‘dream translator’?”

She apparently didn’t realize that Gorman herself (again if I’m understanding this correctly) chose the translator. So she’s essentially accusing Gorman of being racist (I guess?) and that by her choice of a white-skinned (and privileged?) translator Gorman caused “others” on social media much “pain, frustration anger and disappointment.” Which is just unheard of (/s).

Gorman, who is 22, had selected the 29-year-old herself, as a fellow young writer who had also come to fame early. ~ The Guardian

This controversy is full of dragons and the wise and judicious probably sail safer bourns, but I do feel compelled to observe that if Gorman chose the author herself then all that Deul is left with is her own blatant racism. Period. What else does one call it when ones fitness for a given job (setting aside Hollywood whitewashing) is entirely predicated on the otherwise irrelevant color of one’s skin? I’d rather not live in a world where skin color decides one’s fitness to translate another writer’s work. Gorman doesn’t appear to think so and that’s good enough for me.

Rijneveld has judiciously withdrawn the offer to translate Gorman.

5 responses

  1. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
    It is still only a dream, but we must keep reminding each other that it is a dream worth dreaming.


    • I agree. But it’s a thorny issue.

      Deul’s position could be construed as a kind of affirmative action, which has its place in a society cursed with systemic racism; but Deul’s objections feel as if they’ve crossed the ideological and racist rubicon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this, Patrick. Thorny issues, indeed. I sometimes long for the day long ago when I first discovered it was easier to wade through a blackberry patch backwards and called it good . . .


  3. This is old, old news. See for example Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Its totalitarian transfiguration is such now that academically published books are being scrubbed from Amazon and cadres of Soros-funded thought police continuously modify even Wikipedia pages to reflect (and reinforce) the party line. Hence your Wiki bio 10 years from now:

    Patrick Gillespie was a noted Vermont poet who wrote in traditional forms common to several binary, cisgendered, long-extinct white supremacist male poets of the early twentieth century, particularly Robert Frost. He also wrote criticism. Though briefly anthologized, Gillespie’s reputation and livelihood suffered immensely when a racist, misogynistic review of Amanda Gorman’s iconic “The Hill We Climb“ surfaced, followed a few weeks later by a bigoted, exclusionary blog denigrating people of color as Dutch translators. Most devastating, however, was his reputed association with the North Carolina hermit-poet Cliff Wordsworth, a suspected neo-Confederate. An FBI investigation was launched and though no guns were found at either residence, a can of lawn mower gas was confiscated as potential evidence. Gillespie’s pleas that he had voted for Kamala Harris for president—twice–were to no avail, and at the urging of the Southern Poverty Law Center his ever popular poetry website was forthwith deplatformed and several volumes of his poems cleansed from public and private libraries. Nothing has been heard from Gillespie since, although he is reportedly married to a white woman and his favorite country is Germany. However, at the request of the U.S. State Department, Germany is now one of eight European countries he is forbidden to enter.


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