The Circulation of Dutch Literature

Boek to Book


Boek to Book: Flanders in the Transnational Literary Field

‘Boek to Book’ uses a sociology of translation approach to ask, ‘How do literary works by Flemish authors travel internationally?’ Focusing on agents of production, it examines the actors (translators, acquisitions editors, foreign and domestic publishers, distributors, critics, national literature fund officers, rights managers, agents, academics, etc.), institutions (publishing houses, national literature funds, non-profit organisations, etc.) and spaces (international book fairs, festivals, literary awards) involved in the coming-into-being, promotion and circulation of a corpus of 9000+ translated works by Dutch and Flemish authors published since 2000.

The project zeroes in on the role of the Flemish Literature Fund in facilitating the international circulation of literature by Flemish authors and illustrators, particularly to English-language fields. What dynamics shape literary transfer from Flanders to the English-speaking world? How are the relative positions and position-takings of source and target producers ordered? What is the structure of the ‘transnational literary field’ in which these works are produced? What mediating positions does the Flemish Literature Fund and its representatives take up in this field? How do international book fairs like the London Book Fair and the Frankfurter Buchmesse shape it? Taking ‘Flanders’ (e.g. the Flemish Literature Fund in its state-sanctioned role as transnational mediator) as a case study, the project aims to contribute to ongoing discussions about how works from smaller European literatures cross national borders, how state agents act in a globalized book market characterised by increasing economic constraints, how books by Flemish authors enter English-language fields, and how translation into English affects a work’s later production and reception trajectory, both in terms of new translations in third languages and feed-back effects at home.


‘Boek to Book’ is a four-year doctoral research project and is being carried out by Jack McMartin under the supervision of Elke Brems. Jack tweets about Dutch-to-English translation via @jacksaidthat and writes/translates occasionally for various translation-minded literary outlets. His dissertation will be defended in February 2019. His other research results can be viewed here.