Jip en Janneke children’s books now in Persian

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Jipenjanneke

Islamic theology student Simin Rafati has translated all of the famous Dutch children’s books Jip en Janneke by Annie M.G. Schmidt into Persian. Jip en Janneke (in English, we say Jip and Janneke – J is pronounced like a Y), a boy and a girl who have adventures, have already been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Estonian and Latin.

The concept of Christmas was not an issue for the Iranian government who either allow or disallow the publishing of the book in Iran, “as Christmas is also celebrated by Christians in Iran,” Rafati explains. Sinterklaas, a traditional Dutch holiday, was no problem either. However, Jip en Janneke have a dog, Takkie and that was a big no-no. “Dogs have always been considered ‘unclean’ in Persian Islam. I argued that even though Takkie is a dog, he’s a dog from a very different culture.” And so Takkie could stay.

You’d expect Iranians to be less permissive than the British when it comes to the illustrations by Fiep Westendorp of Jip en Janneke. These instantly recognisable silhouettes were ingeniously chosen to make them as easy to print as possible for simpler printing presses. However, the British publisher found them ‘unsuitable’ for the British market as they looked like ‘little black children’ in the poor African sense of the word, and so the British use different illustrations.

(Link: wereldjournalisten.nl, Jip en Janneke (Dutch))

3 Comments »

  1. Great post. Thanks. You have an eye for interesting cultural observations. I suppose it’s clearly in the publishers interest to understand how symbols are interpreted in different markets (cultures) and thus how they would affect books sales.

    Good on the Persian person’s view of Takkie, the dog from a different culture.

    I’d like to understand the British person’s take on “poor African” ‘little black children’ better. It’s not clear to me (USA) except as a missed opportunity. Kids accept without questioning. If they were to identify with Jip and Janneke’s adventures, they would not see their skin color or “class” as an negative characteristic. Maybe the issue goes to how the book buyer would interpret the symbol. Do Jip en Janneke live in a particular country in the stories? If so, which one?

    Translated into Latin? Really? How many Jip en Janneke books were published in Latin and where is the market?

    Comment by Neil — September 16, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  2. I was cautious and said ‘little black children’ while in Dutch it was more like ‘little niggers’ (‘kleine negertjes’), ‘nigger’ as in uneducated black child (no, not any Dutch ethnic minority either) and nothing to do with the US. Think ‘black face’, Al Jolson kind of reference.

    I think the British publisher is being daft.

    Jip en Janneke are Dutch, as per the entire posting :)

    No idea about the Latin.

    Comment by Orangemaster — September 16, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

  3. The British publishers comments date from the seventies, when the stories were published in the UK with different illustrations as “Bob and Jilly”. Long since out of print.

    Last year the Dutch publisher published an English edition of the first book with the original illustrations. Title: “Jip and Janneke”. It’s just been reprinted. (I translated it.)

    Comment by David — January 29, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

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