Lonely Graves / Tombes Solitaires

Sometimes translation is just a labour of love: When my dear friend, the novelist and travel writer Rodney Bolt, in collaboration with Britta Böhler, wrote Lonely Graves (2014), the first volume of the Pieter Posthumus trilogy set in Amsterdam, featuring a tenacious civil servant who investigates mysteries he stumbles across in the course of his work for a city department that deals with the abandoned or unidentified dead (including providing a ‘Lonely Funeral’ to those who remain unclaimed – the City of Amsterdam really does this), my mother, a fan of Rodney’s work, commented that it was too bad that no French translation existed (a Dutch translation was published, first, as Heldhaftig (2012) and a German translation followed as Das Büro der einsamen Toten (2014)), because she would have liked to share the book with francophone family and friends who would appreciate it. She suggested that I translate it into French, with her assistance as editor and proofreader, as a personal project to that end, the result of which I could also present to Rodney to do with what he would. I thought it an intriguing though daunting idea (having done little English-to-French translation by then, as opposed to French or Dutch to English, and never before of a literary text); I set it aside. Until the pandemic struck last year and professional commissions dwindled, an ideal time for a private endeavour. And Lonely Graves is genuinely a page-turner of such calibre that the translation flowed almost effortlessly. I began on 22 January 2021 and was finished with the first draft (which I actually altered only minimally thereafter) on 11 February. It was an absolute pleasure to translate Rodney’s atmospheric, detailed, witty and exciting Mokum crime novel into French. My mother and father provided invaluable help as readers, editors and proofreaders. And it was an even greater pleasure to (nervously) surprise Rodney with the finished work, which he received with grace and delight – I could not have asked for a better reaction. This was a true labour of love (which also cemented my confidence in translating fiction in the future, and from English into French as well as the other way round) that brightened a bleak pandemic winter, and I am immensely proud of Tombes Solitaires, both as a translation and as a gift of friendship. But should any crime fiction publisher happen to read this, Pieter Posthumus definitely deserves to be introduced to a new audience in the francophone world. À bon entendeur

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