March 2, 2021
Amanda Gorman wowed the world Jan. 20 when she delivered her original poem for President Joe Biden’s Inauguration. With her growing fame, international demand for her works has steadily grown.
With that in mind, Dutch publisher Meulenhoff tapped Marieke Lucas Rijneveld to translate Gorman’s collection, “The Hill We Climb,” the New York Post reported.
In fact, Gorman, 22, hand-picked Rijneveld — who won the 2020 International Booker Prize at the age of 29, making her the youngest recipient of the award — to translate her work because they had a similar experience of coming to fame early, the Guardian said.
But there was a problem for the woke crowd: Rijneveld is not black.
Which, of course, means that, despite Gorman’s wishes, Rijneveld will no longer serve as the poet’s translator.
Rijneveld announced Feb. 23 that she would translate Gorman’s work, then just a few days later announced she was pulling out of the deal, CNN reported. Her announcement followed blowback the publisher suffered when the left declared that she was not the right race for the job.
Janice Deul, a Dutch cultural activist, the Guardian said, called out the move to hire Rijneveld in an op-ed for De Volkskrant in late February.
“An incomprehensible choice, in my view and that of many others who expressed their pain, frustration, anger and disappointment via social media,” Deul wrote, according to the Guardian. “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’?”
Deul’s efforts were successful. Rijneveld resigned the opportunity to work with the young up-and-coming poet.
“I am shocked by the uproar around my involvement in the spread of the Amanda Gorman’s message, and I understand the people who feel hurt by Meulenhoff’s decision to ask me,” Rijneveld wrote, the Guardian reported. “I had happily devoted myself to translating Amanda’s work, seeing it as the greatest task to keep her strength, tone and style. However, I realise that I am in a position to think and feel that way, where many are not. I still wish that her ideas reach as many readers as possible and open hearts.”
Meulenhoff insisted that it was Rijneveld’s decision to back out of the project, the Post said.
“We want to learn from this by talking and we will walk a different path with the new insights,” Meulenhoff’s general director Maaike le Noble said in a statement translated by the Post. “We will be looking for a team to work with to bring Amanda’s words and message of hope and inspiration into translation as well as possible and in her spirit.”
Gorman has yet to comment on the controversy, the Post said.