Vertaalprofiel van David McKay


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David McKay was born and raised in the United States, holds degrees in philosophy (B.A., Swarthmore, High Honors), linguistics (M.Sc., MIT), and international relations (M.A., Webster, Honors), and has lived in The Hague since 1997.

He translates a wide range of books and shorter works, including fiction, literary and popular non-fiction, poetry, and theater. His work has been described as “dazzlingly lyrical” (Neel Mukherjee, The Guardian).

His other professional activities include evaluating translation quality for various organizations and mentoring emerging translators. He is the ALTA Dutch-English Mentor for the second time in 2023 and is proud to have mentored Eileen Stevens, Kristen Gehrman, Sarah Timmer Harvey, Lucy Scott, Scott Emblen-Jarrett, and most recently Bo-Elise Brummelkamp. Lucy Scott’s translation of Astrid Roemer’s On a Woman’s Madness, with David as mentor, was a finalist for the National Book Award 2023.

He was awarded the Vondel Prize for his translation of the historical novel War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Harvill Secker/Pantheon), which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize International, shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, and featured on top ten lists by major American and British newspapers. His English edition of Hertmans’s novel The Convert was a finalist for the 2020 National Jewish Book Awards. His recent translation of Hertmans’s The Ascent has garnered excellent reviews in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. David has also served as a judge for a variety of translation prizes.

He co-translated, with Ina Rilke, the new English edition (NYRB Classics, 2019) of Multatuli's classic critique of colonialism, Max Havelaar, the most influential work in the history of Dutch literature, which was shortlisted for the Oxford Weidenfeld Prize in 2020. His translation of Adrift in the Middle Kingdom, a classic existential adventure novel by J. Slauerhoff, was the runner-up for the Vondel Prize 2022.

His recent work includes the long-awaited English translation of Anton de Kom’s anti-colonial manifesto We Slaves of Suriname (Polity Books), for which he received an ICM Global South Translation Fellowship 2021 from Cornell University. Renowned author China Miéville chose We Slaves of Suriname as his book of the year for 2022: “An astounding work of lyrical fury … De Kom is a towering radical and anticolonial figure, and this book a painful masterpiece.” A room in the renovated Translator’s House in Amsterdam has been named after Anton de Kom. See also David’s blog about the book here:

He is enthusiastic about creative collaboration, and two of his co-translations were published in 2024: Revolusi, a groundbreaking history of the Indonesian Revolution and its worldwide impact, with award-winning translator David Colmer, for Bodley Head, and Off White by the acclaimed author Astrid Roemer, a novel about three generations of a Surinamese family that explores the links between national, individual, and family trauma, for Two Lines Press, with National Book Award finalist Lucy Scott.

He is looking into the impact of generative AI models such as ChatGPT on literary translation and was the co-organizer, with Lisa Dillman, of a round table on the subject for the 2023 ALTA conference.