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Jip and Janneke enter Iran with a spat back home

Translator of childrens’ cartoon in trouble

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - Amid the current wave of Iran coverage that makes the country synonymous with a global nuclear threat, Dutch newspapers are linking the Islamic republic also to something as innocent as a Dutch children's classic. It appears that the children’s favourites, stories of cartoon characters Jip and Janneke have been translated into Persian, and much to the delight of a generation of Iranian children.

The potentially heartwarming tale of cultural exchange has an undesiable twist to it however. Dutch publisher Querido is furious that the Iranian publisher has used the texts and illustrations from the Dutch original without obtaining the publication rights.

The books were translated by Simin Rafati, an Iranian woman living in The Hague. She fell in love with the books while reading them to her own children and recognized her own childhood experiences in them, she explained. She describes Jip and Janneke’s stories as being universal children's experiences, making mischief with the cat, turning the room upside down and getting into things that all kids get into. The Iranian authorities seem to agree, since the book made it past the censors without any problems.

But the translator has come into fierce criticism from the publisher who accuses her of unprofessional conduct and naivety. Simin Rafiti says she did contact the publishers but when she did not get a response, she decided to leave the legal side of things to the Iranian publishers. The spat could be embarrassing to the Dutch embassy in Tehran, since it has snapped up 500 copies of the books for its own purposes.