Anneke Brassinga, born in 1948 at Schaarsbergen, Holland, did translation studies at the University of Amsterdam 1967 – 1972. She has been a free-lance literary translator from English, French, and German. She has been writing poetry and essays since 1984, winning several prizes, including P.C. Hooft-Prijs 2015.
Ming Di: You have translated Vladimir Nabokov, Oscar Wilde, Sylvia Plath, Jules Verne and WH Auden into Dutch and you have received PC Hooft Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry, the highest literary honor in the Netherlands. Does being a translator make someone a better poet? Or being a poet makes you a better translator?
Anneke Brassinga: Being a translator produced in my brains a surplus of language, because, being always occupied in choosing the right word or turn of phrase from the largest possible number of alternatives, one also develops a rather extended memory, visually (like where was this word on what line of which page) as well as contextually (what is the usage I know for this or that word, etc.), and in terms of frequency throughout a text. This whole reservoir of language created in me an urge to write. The need for precision is maybe a reason why a translator might be a better poet than he or she would otherwise be.
I don’t think being a poet makes one a better translator. A poet has a voice, he lives in his words, whereas a translator has no voice of his own, he disappears into the words of the text.