Transnational Pole Coherence and Dutch-to-German Literary Transfer: A Study of Book Translations Published in the Lead-Up to the Guest of Honourship at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair

Jack McMartin


This article provides an overview and analysis of literary transfer from Dutch to German in the two years leading up to the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, where Flanders and the Netherlands were joint Guest of Honour. Taking a field-theoretical approach, it makes a distinction between publishers at the small-scale and large-scale poles of production and traces ‘transfer trajectories’ from the Dutch to the German field. The notion of ‘transnational pole coherence’ (where the source publisher and target publisher of a given title occupy the same pole of production in their respective national fields) is developed and tested on a dataset of 316 book translations. The results show that pole coherence held more often than not (59 percent of all transfer), was strongest between the large-scale poles (German large-scale publishers bought two of every three of their books from Dutch large-scale counterparts) and was weakest between the small-scale poles (German small-scale publishers bought about as many books from Dutch large-scale publishers as they did from their small-scale counterparts). An interpretation of these results is ventured in light of the theoretical framework.

Translation subsidy decisions by the Dutch Foundation for Literature (DFL) and the Flemish Literature Fund (FLF), the co-organisers of the 2016 Guest of Honourship, were also examined from the perspective of poles of production: 53 percent of transfer to the small-scale pole was supported, compared with 46 percent of transfer to the large-scale pole. It is argued that the high subsidy rates for German publishers at both poles reflects the DFL and FLF’s ‘double agent’ role as patrimony-minded facilitators of culturally significant, commercially threatened translations and as market-minded ‘matchmakers’ mediating between source and target publishers to maximise the number of high-potential translations.


sociology of translation, transnational literary field, literary transfer, Dutch literature, translation subsidies, global market for translations, Frankfurt Book Fair, sociologische vertaalwetenschap, transnationale literaire veld, literaire transfer

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