Dutch translation of Jose Rizal's 'Noli Me Tangere' gets an update

Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 27 2019 07:33 PM

Translator Gerard Arp with his Filipino wife Norma. Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News

THE HAGUE -- The book-loving Dutch will have a "new" novel to enjoy from a very famous Filipino author: Jose Rizal. 

During the celebration of the 121st Independence Day hosted by the Philippine Embassy in The Hague, the Dutch translated version of "Noli Me Tangere" was officially introduced to the public.

In his speech, Philippine Ambassador Jaime Victor Ledda said that although diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Netherlands started only 68 years ago, the connection between the two countries dates back in the 1800s during the time of Rizal. Known for his language proficiency, the national hero was said to be also fluent in Dutch.

He told the audience, which was composed of the diplomatic corps and some members of the Filipino community, that when Rizal was based in Brussels, Belgium, he got in contact with famous Dutch orientalist and linguist professor Hendrik Kern because he wanted to learn Dutch.

According to Ledda, "Noli Me Tangere" was first translated into Dutch sometime in the 1920s. "Now almost a 100 years later, we are very pleased to present an updated Dutch translation of this outstanding novel,” he said.

The translator of the book, Gerard Arp, was present during the book launching, along with his Filipino wife Norma.

A former book publisher, Arp is no stranger to Philippine politics, history, culture and arts. He said he has been to the Philippines many times and has read books from Filipino authors. When he read "Noli Me Tangere," he was so engaged with the storytelling and decided to do something about it.

“I’m interested in the history of the Philippines, the Spanish-American War, the war between the Filipinos and the Americans. Then I found and read ‘Noli Me Tangere’ and I asked why it is not available in Dutch? Because the story is really interesting—it’s a love story, a thriller, it’s a political novel. It’s still valid today, the ideas of Jose Rizal,” he said.

It took about a year for Arp to translate the 408-page book which is entitled in Dutch as "Raak Me Niet Aan (Touch Me Not)."

The book was also launched in time for the 158th birthday of Rizal.

On the publisher’s website, "Noli Me Tangere" was described as “the first Asian novel against European colonialism, written with passion, humor and sarcasm, was a fierce indictment of Spanish oppression in the Philippines. Few novels have had so much influence on the history of a country. In addition, ‘Noli Me Tangere’ is also an exciting and tragic love story.”

It took about a year for Arp to finish the translation, which he based from the English version. He also read the original manuscript in Spanish to make sure the translation was accurate.

Arp said the most challenging part of translating was to keep the tone, humor and context of the novel.

“This is the complete version as he (Rizal) wrote it in the Spanish version with all the jokes and sarcasm… I hope it will reach a new audience and new generation here… The beginning of the book is a bit hard but as you go on reading… I think they will like it,” he said.

Arp has been busy translating books from Filipino authors, especially those with a strong historical standpoint. Last year, he translated "America is in the Heart" by Carlos Bulosan and is working on an F. Sionil Jose novel.