Why can’t a white writer translate Amanda Gorman?

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Marieke Lucas Rijneveld will reply with a poem. She will not be the Dutch translator of the collection of the American poet Amanda Gorman, he gave up, but he doesn’t think silence is the answer. “The best way to answer is to write a poem. It will be released on Saturday. Poetry unites, reconciles and heals »he wrote on Instagram.

Very few in Italy had heard the name of this 29-year-old who rose to prominence last week. She was chosen as a translator for the Dutch version of the work of the African American poet Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”, “The Hill We Climb”, the poem recited at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden last January 20.

Let’s use the past tense, “it was chosen” byeditor Meulenhoff, because the Dutch poet gave up after the controversy. The accusation? Being “too white”, in the sense of being too far from the original author’s experience. The question of many was this: why not choose an Afro-Dutch writer or the Belgian Lisette Ma Neza?

Amanda Gorman talks about racism, of how to improve society and does it from an African American perspective. Rijneveld would be too far from this position, she would not have lived it. Among the harshest criticisms were related to the words he used to say that she had been chosen: “In a time of increasing polarization, Amanda Gorman … shows the power of reconciliation.” The term polarization would have been read as misleading, a symbol of an irreconcilable division.

On the one hand there are those who say that it is not just a poem to be translated, but the entire experience of Gorman, and that only a person with similar experiences could do it. Added to this is the dominant group’s need to step back for true inclusiveness. On the other hand, there are those who speak of excess of politically correct and racism on the contrary and those who wonder if the literary work alone is not capable of breaking down the barriers and making itself understood beyond those who take care of the translation. .

The publishing house said it had chosen the author following the requests of the American publisher who was looking for an author “similar to Gorman’s work also in style and tone”. The Dutch poet, like Gorman, had one early career and awards from a very young age. “Besides, they are both not afraid to make their voices heard. Amanda herself said she was enthusiastic about the choice (she reposted the tweet of the announcement ed) », explained Maaike le Noble, director of Meulenhoff.

In Italy the works of Amanda Gorman will be published by Garzanti.

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