EU Literature Festival 2021

Writers and translators from around Europe will participate in readings, lectures, dialogues, and panel discussions with Japanese intellectuals. This year’s festival, the fifth of its kind, will introduce notable European writers and their works through a variety of events. Mr. Toon Tellegen from the Netherlands will also participate in the festival. Saki Nagayama, the translator of “The Hedgehog’s Wish,” “The Perturbed Squirrel,” “The Grasshopper’s Happiness,” and “The Story I Heard from My Grandfather,” published by Shinchosha, will also give a talk with Mr. Toon. The talk event will include an interview about The Grasshopper’s Happiness, and an introduction to Tellegen’s poetry, which is still unknown in Japan.

Following last year’s event, this year’s event will be held through online streaming.

They are also updating the limited-time release of works by European authors (short stories or excerpts from full-length stories), which was announced last year, with a new lineup. Most of them will be introduced in Japan for the first time.

Information on Talk Events by Dutch Representatives

Monday, 22 November, online streaming, 20:00-21:15 Dutch, Japanese (interpretation available)

Event report

Talk event with writer Toon Tellegen and translator Saki Nagayama – Toon Tellegen’s World

This year’s European Literature Festival, which marked its fifth edition, was once again held mostly online while pursuing the same goal of bringing European literature closer to the Japanese public.

Writer Toon Tellegen and translator Saki Nagayama represented the Netherlands for this year’s festival. Through the discussion of his translated works as well as untranslated poetry, the audience got a closer look into how it takes an intricate web of literature enthusiast and almost fate-like encounters for a book to travel all the way from a small country like the Netherlands to readers in Japan.

In conversation with the writer, the passionate translator of Tellegen’s work spoke about the boundless success of Toon Tellegen’s animal stories, the likeness of his work to the work of Shuntaro Tanikawa, one of the most acclaimed Japanese poets and advocate of Tellegen’s work in Japan, his authorship and the challenges she faced while translating his work. Luk van Haute (translator Japanese-Dutch of many notable works of authors such as Soseki Natsume, Yoko Ogawa, Haruki Murakami, Sayaka Murata and many more ) translated one of Tanikawa’s poems “Music of the River’’ from his collection Beige, as a special gift to Toon Tellegen.  

Toon Tellegen, much loved in Japan, was finally able to address his Japanese audience since his 2018 trip in honour of the publication of A Great and Complicated Adventure had to be cancelled. The duo received the 2017 Japan Booksellers’ Award in the translation novel category for What the Hedgehog Really Wanted, and has ever since maintained a loyal readership. 

The silver lining of an event forced to be held online, is that the audience can participate from anywhere in the world. It was evident from the Q&A that the audience was participating from Japan as well as the Netherlands. Dutch speakers were also able to enjoy the talk event since it was held in Dutch with the Japanese translation from Saki Nagayama. Regardless of the virtual setting, laughter could be sensed during the Q&A, when the duo was asked about what is typically Dutch about Tellegen’s animal stories. An example was given of Teunis, an elephant in his work, who can be particularly clumsy and blunt. 

Saki Nagayama closed the event by sharing that her work as Tellegen’s translator isn’t over until his poetry is also translated in Japanese, leaving the audience with the hope of more to come.

Toon Tellegen’s translated works:

Toon Tellegen

Born in 1941 on an island in the south of the Netherlands to a Dutch father and a Russian-born mother. After graduating from Utrecht University and serving as a Masai doctor in Kenya, he became a practitioner in Amsterdam. In 1984, he published the story of animals, Not a Day Went By, written for his young daughter. Since then, he has published more than 50 books with animals as the main characters and won many literary awards. Highly respected by the Dutch publishing world and readers it is no surprise that he has won both the Theo Thijssen Prize (an oeuvre award for writers of books for children and young adults) and the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire oeuvre, as well as the 2017 Japan Booksellers’ Award in the translation novel category for What the Hedgehog Really Wanted.

Saki Nagayama

Born in Kobe in 1963. Completed the master’s program at Kwansei Gakuin University Graduate School, Department of Cultural Anthropology. Studied abroad in 1987 at Leiden University as a Dutch government scholarship student. Since then, she has lived in the Netherlands and now lives in Amsterdam. Her translated works include What the Hedgehog Really Wanted and The Grasshopper’s Happiness by Toon Tellegen, The Discovery of Heaven and The Procedure by Harry Mulisch, Post Mortem by Peter Terrin, The Blue Wings by Jef Aerts, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 years old by Hendrik Groen etc.