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.