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47 article(s) translated from Dutch

From “Cinderella”

There she stood, cursing her three Jack Russells, that unsettled afternoon my mother and I planned to take over a brothel. Our backer and soon-to-be business partner, a short, skinny, and bald guy who suffered being called Daffy Danny, was about to keep us waiting for the best part of an hour that afternoon. The self-proclaimed madman might have had half a million in his bank account, and my mother and I might have been depending on every single cent of that money for our future enterprise,...

What You’ve Given Up Hoping for Counts Twice as Much, She’d Discovered

ONE Even when she looked in a mirror she had a smile on her face these days; when she went down the stairs there was practically a skip in her step, and now and again, a tune would come humming out of her. What you’ve given up hoping for counts twice as much, Kathleen had discovered. After her divorce, there’d been Emiel. He had Crohn’s disease. It hadn’t been officially diagnosed but he assumed he had it, given the unreliability of his bowels. He didn’t...

Plastic Wrap

Peter doesn’t buy everything on the list. Checking off the groceries among the packed supermarket shelves, all he can picture is his daughter at home by herself: curled up on top of the duvet, nightshirt on backward. As he was leaving, it seemed somehow dangerous to wake her from this peaceful, perfect position but now, with a display cabinet of chicken wings staring him in the face, all he can think of is her pointed shoulder blades peeping out of her V-neck. He decides to get a move...

Ketamine

I open the back door and the dog pushes its way out past my legs and runs into the woods at the back of our house. It’s already dark outside and I’m so hungover that I realize only then what the animal’s intending to do. And before I run after the old black Labrador to make sure he doesn’t eat our vomit yet again, I call back to my brother in the house to ask if this time he bothered to dig a hole before emptying the bucket. And although I already know the answer, I...

The Way to the Sea

The ultrasound technician was a tall woman with intense eyes. At the twenty-week scan Dylan and Tessa beheld the first black-and-white images of their baby moving. “You may as well go out and buy a little dress,” she said after a while. “Get ready for seven years of dresses and the color pink. It’s going to be pink, pink, pink all the way. I’ve got one of those at home myself. She refuses to wear anything but dresses. As if our grandmothers never started a...

Sand

He raised the blinds, and his wife turned her back to the late sun slanting into the room. He paused a moment, registering the ginger hair partially hidden beneath the collar of the bathrobe, the hand elegantly holding the glass of red wine, the bottle in the middle of the table. He sat down across from her and picked up the newspaper. “I think I wouldn’t mind having a mirror in the elevator,” he said. She lifted her eyebrows. “What on earth for?” “You...

Ten Floors

Girls, women, he’s beginning to fathom them. On the Internet, stripped of shirts, underwear, false modesty, pretty much everything, they reveal their nature. With each click of the mouse more appear on his screen. “Look how happy without clothes. Look at those eyes!” And not just happy eyes but happy legs (spread), happy breasts (bent over), happy mouths (always full). How different the world on the street. If he ventures out he sees misery, cares, doom. Women in a hurry,...

Dead Men Always Win

Your mom cut men’s hair for money. I don’t know if she started cutting hair again after the two of you disappeared, you and your mom, because she wasn’t very good, just cheap. You knew not to expect too much from one of your mom’s haircuts. Someone told me you could get your hair cut at her place for ten guilders and that she wasn't half bad, but not to expect too much from the haircut. So I didn’t expect much, but I got on with her when she was cutting...

Craving

For the first time in her life, Elisabeth runs into her daughter unexpectedly. She comes out of the pharmacist’s on the Overtoom, is about to cross over to the tram stop when she sees her daughter riding along the other side of the street. Her daughter sees her too. Elisabeth stops walking. Her daughter stops pedaling, but doesn’t yet brake. The entire expanse of the Overtoom separates them: two bike paths, two lanes of traffic and a double tramline. Elisabeth realizes at once...

The Virgin Marino

The door opens, and it’s no surprise to Marino that the man who appears is wearing nothing but a pair of briefs. That was the agreement. More surprising is the expression on the man’s face. The heavy eyelids betray a doped-up condition. His gait is just a bit unsteady. But the clenched jaw muscles attest to intense determination. The chin is slightly raised, the lips pout defiantly. He looks like a cross between a zombie and a martyr, or a sleepwalker quivering with...

White Feather

When I wake those damned blackbirds are there again. They cover my whole balcony in shit. There are two of them, but usually only the male shows himself and the female stays next door. White Feather I call her, after the light patch on her wing. For days on end I sit near the window; she hardly ever lands on the balcony rail. I get dressed and make tea. Pickwick brand, nice and dark. “Daniel, you shouldn’t leave the bag in so long.” When Nel’s here I try to remember....

from “Tooth and Nail”

When Violet tires of it, of people, of conversation, of the party, when she wants to get away without having to explain, she says: “I have to go to yoga.” There are moments when it is hard to claim that one has to go to yoga. So there is also the variation: “I need to get to bed. Early start tomorrow.” That sounds perhaps less zealous, but things don’t necessarily have to sound zealous, they only have to be it. In any case, she doesn’t like staying up...

The Bearded Lady

Just as no one can combat the graying of the population by dying their hair, so Emmy Debeuckelaer could not keep her sorrow at bay by giving herself a good shave. At the age of about sixteen, when the beard started growing, she’d still been able to deny it a public outing. She shaved in the mornings before leaving for school, where she shut herself up in the toilets with a hand-mirror and a Gillette in the afternoons. That meant, however, that contrary to her intentions she was...

The Ohio Hat

The height of summer, stifling heat, a stiff east wind. Sand and dust blew through the streets of the Amsterdam suburb. The schools were closed, and in the parks, office workers in shirt sleeves lay panting in the shade of rustling trees, while ducks slept under overhanging bushes by the ponds. A prolonged heat wave had slackened the usual, syrup-slow pace of the bedroom community to complete stasis. One afternoon, I was sent as a substitute to the home of a Mr. Handigman. His regular home...

Canoes

for my friend V. Sorry. That was my first word. Not Mama or Dada, not car or bear, but sorry. Just as well. It’s a word I’ve had plenty of use for. I swear a lot. I don’t mean to and that’s why I say sorry. For everything that’s been and all that’s yet to come. I work out like I swear: plenty and often. What I mean is, I didn’t see the pain in my armpit as a warning straight off, as something to watch out for. When you work out, when you push...

Fucked Up

Dear Reader, I was about to tell you of the first time that my stories were published, about how it came to pass and about my “birth” as a writer. But more than that, I would like to tell you about the water, the source from which these stories arise. These last few years especially, it seems that the more I think up and imagine, the tighter a certain reality grips me by the arm, and it’s as if the faces I thought I saw in the pattern of the wallpaper as a child, faces...

For an Easy Life

The telephone was beige. Or an insipid office kind of brown. Square, both the receiver and the body, and the keys too—all right angles, a relic from the eighties. He still had it in the garage, on a metal rack, next to an old computer screen in the same color. Every time he parked the car, he saw it in the final glow of the headlights, and when his wife, Veerle, filled the last cardboard box and didn’t hesitate to lay claim to the sleek cordless telephone, he thought, for the...

On Tao Qian

Tao Qian on Tao Qian: He likes to read and is satisfied with the most simple of explanations. When he understands what something means, he is so happy he forgets to eat. Su Dongpo on Tao Qian: He writes the way someone who is no longer impatient speaks. Huang Tingjian on Tao Qian: The poems are of no use to someone just out of childhood, but if he rereads them when he is old it is as if he has made his decisions without knowing enough. Huang Tingjian says that Su Dongpo is...

Du Fu

Du Fu says of himself that he was a child prodigy, that he was writing poetry when he was seven or eight years old. When he’s over forty, he will be a great poet. What he can think about, he can write about. A child asks if something is important enough to think about. Is this an excuse to get out of doing something else? The other children are already at work. Reading takes time, just like looking around. Every word Du Fu uses, he read somewhere. He remembers the meaning of...

Su Dongpo and the Trick he says he Learned from Tao Qian

The simplest way to find tranquility: keep starting over in a different way. He knows nothing about those who find tranquility, free from what surrounds them; he’s never met anyone like that. Let’s send him somewhere else, see if he changes his tune then. His trick is to be more than happy when things are going well. It’s a warm evening and it will rain later. More to see left and right than he can list. Quiet, except for old man Du Fu reproaching old man...

Dummy Run

He liked his supper at six. To come home from the office, briefly look at the newspaper and then find his meal on the table, that was the way he liked it. When they were just married, Margaret had fitted in with that routine. She had never known anything different in fact; her parents had done it just the same. But a few years ago her attitude had changed. Often it would be seven o'clock, half past seven or as late as eight. Sometimes she wasn't even in when he came home from work....

Let Us Talk

First, we will bury you in the sand, with your head free to speak about mutual understanding, about peace;   first, we will make your field our own, station soldiers between mine and thine, direct the camera from our side;   first, we will count our dead from the past two thousand years and justify the beating,   and wipe the spit from our hands and declare—it's clear as day; you want no peace in this land. Translation of "Laat ons praten," from...

Room

In that town there was a room I kept circling. It was near my girlfriend’s. She didn’t know I sometimes climbed those stairs. On the wall there were photos from before the war. I talked to an old Frisian writer about it. He said, “I know that room. I should actually go in there, but I’m afraid I’ve left it too late.” He was right. He died during the Games. The room is still there—up the steps and left down the corridor. Everyone knows more or less...

A Journey to Spitsbergen

I On the flight from Oslo to Tromsø, two worlds: the land far below me, the map on my lap. Outside, the sun is setting. The clouds hanging over the land on my map have been painted by Max Ernst, surreal, puffy sky formations, squadrons whizzing past us, fire within the gray, the land below already dark, less and less visible, a mere assumption. And mysterious as it may be, it cannot be chaos because roads have been drawn on the map, there are towns, harbors, names. The thin green...

Counterpoint

Aria The woman with the pencil leaned over the table to read a pocket score of the Goldberg Variations. The pencil was made of special black wood. It had a heavy silver cap that concealed a pencil sharpener. The pencil was poised above an empty notebook. Next to the score lay cigarettes and a lighter. A small metal ashtray, a shiny and compact present from a friend, stood on the table. The woman was simply called "woman," perhaps "mother." There were naming problems. There were many...

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