Literary translation

It probably started in school, albeit in different language combinations: the obligatory Virgil and Seneca from Latin, Homer and Plato from Greek. Meanwhile at home I would attempt to translate the lyrics of Joni Mitchell and David Bowie; I was even brash enough to try my hand at the poetry of the great Dylan Thomas. And I never stopped, and nowadays this is how my efforts are judged:

“What Hans Kloos has achieved is pure magic.”

judges of the Filter Vertaalprijs 2020

Being a poet myself I started translating other poets, such as Marianne Moore, E.E. Cummings, Langston Hughes and Torgny Lindgren. Sometimes I would include a poem I translated in one of my own volumes of poetry, for instance De herinneringen zien me, my rendering of Minnena ser mig by Tomas Tranströmer. I also got to interview him in the ‘80s in Stockholm. But most of my poetry translations appeared in literary magazines. Occasionally this led to more, such as the anthology Ik was een slechte hond, my selection from the works of the Swedish poet Thomas Tidholm.

Ik was een slechte hond

“Hans Kloos has done something special by translating Tidholm into Dutch for the first time. Tidholm certainly deserves this.”

Tom van Deel on Ik was een slechte hond

At times I would collaborate with other translators because of a shared affinity with  the works of poets like Wallace Stevens, Russell Edson and Michael Ondaatje.

“Hans Kloos’s command of the language is intricate, skilful and precise. With K. Michel he produced an inimitable translation of a poem by Michael Ondaatje, a long poetic account of a man who got drunk the night before and wreaked havoc everywhere he went.”

Erik Lindner in De Groene Amsterdammer

On a few occasions I also joined forces with others for book translations, as with the translation of Vera Brittain’s feminist classic The Testament of Youth, but usually Hans Kloos is the only translator mentioned on the title page. Sometimes I am also credited for the selection of poems, essays or stories, or for a preface or an afterword, as is the case with Tidholm and Donald Hankey’s A Student in Arms.

“What is most striking is the unsentimentally dry, clean and supple style.”

De Standaard on Student onder de wapenen

Translators, organisations and publishing houses regularly turn to me when a text comes their way that is too peculiar for them to handle. As a result I have translated poems by William Morris for the Dutch version of A.S. Byatt’s Peacock & Vine, and a whole string of quotes from Swift, Larkin, Blake and Frost, among others, that Siddartha Mukherjee has strewn throughout The Gene, his highly praised non-fiction book.  BureauGrotesque – A Sad Tale of Scarton from Endland (sic) is a so-called online city book by Tim Etchells, and a mad succession of deviations from ordinary syntax, grammar, spelling, register and style that I tried to emulate with similar extravagances in Dutch.

Renowned publishing house De Bezige Bij asked me to translate In Parenthesis, David Jones’s rediscovered masterpiece about The Great War first published in 1937, a book that has been categorized under many styles and genres, because they are all included in the text, often simultaneously.

“This newly published Tussentijd, the excellent translation of the lyrical novel In Parenthesis, is a satisfying example.”

de Volkskrant on Tussentijd

“To have translated this book into touching and swinging Dutch is nothing less than a heroic achievement, especially since Jones regularly changes register within a sentence; exalted epic poetry, officialese, popular songs, rude soldier slang, all mixed together. This is a devastating book, in a brilliant translation.”

de Nederlandse Boekengids on Tussentijd

Translating Robin Robertson’s The Long Take was my own idea. Despite several prizes, nominations and all around high praise for the original, it wasn’t easy to find a Dutch publisher who had the guts to invest in a translation of this book which also seems to defy categorization. But Querido, one of the oldest publishing houses in the Netherlands, rose to the occasion and got things rolling: two online platforms asked for a prepublication, and even before the book hit the shelves, a major newspaper published a wildly enthusiastic review. The praise just kept on coming from the press and readers alike. The judges of the Filter Vertaalprijs apparently were of a similar mind and nominated the translation for the 2020 edition of the prize.

“Nearly every page of Hier maak ik mijn stad contains something I would like to quote, so beautiful and precise is Robertson’s writing. (…) His subtle play with sound, rhythm, alliteration and internal rhyme produces a feverish cadence, that remains surprisingly intact in Dutch thanks to Hans Kloos’s clever translation.”

NRC Handelsblad on Hier maak ik mijn stad

“The true magic is in the translation by Hans Kloos. Hier maak ik mijn stad transforms Robertson’s poignant verse novel into an epic poem that could well have been written in Dutch. (…) In fact, everybody should read this brilliant translation.”

from the jury report for the nominations for the Filter Vertaalprijs 2020

The Svenska Institutet, the Wales Literature Exchange, the Publishing Scotland Translation Fund, Gone West (Reflections on the Great War) and the Dutch Foundation for Literature have financially supported book translations by Hans Kloos.

As both translator and author, Hans Kloos is a member of the Auteursbond (the Dutch Authors Guild) and he is registered at the Expertisecentrum Literair Vertalen (Centre of Expertise for Literary Translation).