I discovered a few months ago that my book on cynicism, Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint, was in the process of being translated… into Dutch.
FWI has not had much of a readership since its release in the Spring of 2011. This has been hard on the ego, but really good for the soul.
Somehow, a Christian journalist from the Netherlands caught wind of the book, liked it, and pulled of some impressive work behind Dutch and American scenes to bring the book to life in his own country.
This journalist is now a friend of mine, and I am excited about visiting with him over the weekend. I think the behind-the-scenes story goes something like this: this new friend found my article “We Need More Boring Christians” at RelevantMagazine.com and traced the links to my blog and the book. He eventually found an English copy of FWI, read it, found it helpful, and set up a Skype interview with me last Spring. His magazine (CV Koers) has featured some of the material from the book and from that interview in a new re-launch of sorts. At some point, the Dutch publishing house Jongbloed (Youngblood) got into the picture. I contacted InterVarsity Press to see if they were on board with all this. Turns out the wheels were already rolling on that end as well.
And so the book is released this week in The Netherlands. I have lived in two different countries since the book’s release in English, and no where has interest in FWI been stronger than in this country I have never lived in. All I can say, is that the whole thing is just bemusing, interesting, ironic, exciting… and fun.
Now, I have had no real involvement in this entire process. And I am an amateur author, with no idea how these author-ish things work.
I found out the title last night:
Leve de Saaie Christenen! Hoopvul Realistisch
Guess what it means?
(Long) Live the Boring Christians! Hopeful Realism
Authors do not get to choose their titles… at least not amateur authors with low readership. And when it comes to a translation, I have to trust the folks on the ground, so to speak. They know what they are doing more than I do. What is interesting about this new title is that it capitalizes heavily on the second chapter of my book and on that Relevant piece I wrote. What is also interesting is that Busby and I have toyed around with another book idea for which “Long Live the Boring Christians” would be a rather apt title.
This appearance of my book in a new language and a new culture provides me a personal vantage point for understanding “reception history,” something I am studying as a PhD candidate in New Testament. Written works have a history of how they are received. Those energetic proponents of the material in FWI are keen on bringing it to their own cultural niche, and they received that material in ways Americans or Indians or Bolivians or Italians would not. Certain elements are more accentuated and feel more urgent. Others may seem less significant.
When you write something and it gets published, it is eerily and joyfully out of your hands and into the hands of others. Ultimately, it is in the hands of God, so may it be done to that book according to His will.
And long live boring Christians… in The Netherlands and elsewhere.