First full Dutch version of Dream of the Red Chamber hits shelves in the Netherlands

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The first full Dutch version of Dream of the Red Chamber, a masterpiece in Chinese classical literature, has recently hit bookstore shelves in the Netherlands following 13 years of hard work by three Dutch sinologists and translators.

The 2,160-page, four-volume book, which consists of the full 120 chapters of the original Chinese epic novel, is the result of a long-lasting partnership among Silvia Marijnissen, Mark Leenhouts and Anne Sytske Keijser.

"It was a longer and more difficult process than we had imagined," Keijser told Xinhua.

Dream of the Red Chamber, one of Chinese literature's Four Great Classical Novels, was written in the middle of the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty.

Initially, the three co-translators had planned to complete the translation of the Chinese classical novel in about eight years. "But obviously, that wasn't enough. We really wanted to create a translation that would read well in Dutch," Keijser said.

The Dutch sinologist said the translated version is intended for the readership of the general public.

"The strength of this novel is that it can speak to its readers, even across a long distance in time and place -- even though Dutch readers will be unfamiliar with many aspects of life and society in the novel, we are able to identify with the main characters on an emotional level," she said.

This novel is "the epitome of Chinese classical literature and culture," she said. "We were overjoyed when Athenaeum was interested in publishing the novel."

In a favourable and enthusiastic review in the widely-read Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, scholar Henk Propper thanked the translators for their efforts, saying "Cao Xueqin's Chinese has become delicious, sparkling Dutch."

Published by Athenaeum, the Dutch version of the masterpiece, entitled De Droom van de Rode Kamer, is available in bookshops across the Netherlands and online bookstores.

To mark the book's launch, a presentation ceremony is planned in early December at Spui25, an academic and cultural center in Amsterdam. 

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