The art of book translation
Each of them was presented with a small bronze statuette and cheques for $1,500 or around £700. Mrs Weir, who is Dutch, said that Van Gogh wrote mostly in Dutch but then towards the end of his life, after he had moved to live in France in Arles and Paris, he wrote in French. The letters are to his friends and family including his brother but they have published only those relevant to his art. Mrs Weir said: “We have only used those which mention his art – not ones where he just talks about going for a walk and so on.“The letters have been translated and published before but we have made a new translation from an original published text.” And she confessed: “I was never terribly struck on Van Gogh before but now I’ve come to appreciate him although he was a strange sort of man, very emotional and hard to understand.
“We have a particular interest in art especially of the 17th Century and Holland is very rich in it. “We work very much together – I’m the Dutch expert and Alaistair is the English expert but it’s a joint effort.” They have also translated large “coffee-table” style books and guide books from Dutch mostly on art and lifestyle but also on a wide variety of subjects including gardening, design, houses, cookery as well as cats and Belgian beer.
The couple previously worked in Hull where Mrs Weir was in the Dutch department of the university and Mr Weir was a lecturer at the College of Commerce. They bought their house in Fryup in the 1960s as a holiday home for themselves and their children but when they retired decided to make it their permanent home. And although for the present they are carrying on with their translation work, Mrs Weir has a very different ambition she wants to fulfil.
“During the Second World War when she was a teenager she and her mother were prisoners of the Japanese in a camp in the Dutch East Indies. She said: “My children want me to write about it and I must get around to it. “I kept a diary – everyone was writing diaries – but I wrote mine in rhyme and it’s taking a long time to sort out.”