The Ultimate Brainchild

Earlier this year, I translated and adapted Richard Bintanja’s second novel. (The original is in Dutch.) The title of the translation is The Ultimate Brainchild. In his daily life, Richard is currently a professor of climate change.

I know Richard in real life because his wife and I became members of a professional network for women in science and technology a long time ago. I even spent some time at their home after my unplanned re-emigration from the United States to my native the Netherlands.

I have also edited some of Richard’s scientific publications because I’ve always had excellent writing and language skills, and as you probably guessed by now, I too have an extensive science background. (And, as you likely know if you’ve been to my web site before, I’ve been self-employed for a long time.) One of his papers is still the greatest I have been lucky enough to be able to work on. It literally made me sit up. It was for Nature, and I knew right away that it would be accepted.

Translating one of Richard’s non-scientific works was a very interesting experience for me and I want to share with you why.

Apart from the fact that I rarely read books in Dutch, this is not the kind of book that I would have selected for myself, to read. I normally look at a few pages, and I may read a few pages, but if it does not pull me in straight away or the pace is too slow, I tend to give up. I often go for fast-paced American thrillers and crime novels.

But this, and I only discovered this because I translated the book, is a book that has to be read in full before you can judge it. That is very interesting. Does this mean that I too have become part of the people who want “instant gratification”? I am still chewing on this…

The book is very well crafted (featuring brain scientist George Walder) and, of course, you don’t  fully appreciate that until you arrive at the end, when everything has come together. I can imagine it as a film. There is enough action in it to make it work, enough suspense and enough that sparks curiosity. A good script writer could easily add a few scenes here and there or adapt a few scenes here and there to give it what it would need to be turned into a film. (No, I am not kidding. I believe that this book has many elements – including some nudity, by the way – and a storyline that would work very well in a film.)

The book contains a division into persons who have a certain ability and people who don’t. There is even a parallel universe in it, which really threw me at first because I didn’t know what it was about until much later. (The book increasingly produces a sense of delight as you progress through it.) So it is also a book that could potentially yield new insights about equality and inequality for some people.

Now, ask me anything you want! About this book or the context of the above.

More recommended reading

These are business books that contain a few life lessons as well. The story about RJR Nabisco is a fast-paced account – it’s been called a thriller – about business and banking practices (junk bonds and whatnots) and of course a portrayal of Ross Johnson and others. (It’s not for everyone, and not for every moment because it requires enough time.)

The book about Greggs gives you the inside view of how Greggs came about and grew into what it is today. It’s a good read and may change how you think of Greggs, the big chain it is today that started as a mom & pop undertaking not unlike my own parents’.

Hilary Devey’s Bold as Brass is suitable for everyone – unless you happen to be a misogynist. It’s a touching book, showing you how Hilary grew up in Britain, the many personal and professional challenges she had to overcome and how she developed Pall-Ex. Throughout her life, Hilary climbed many steep cliffs and was pushed off a few too.

  1. Barbarians At The Gate
  2. Bread: The Story of Greggs
  3. Bold As Brass

Five books about Britain

I haven’t read the fifth one yet, but take for granted that it’s highly informative. The first one is pretty heavy reading, more suitable to browse and read when anything catches your eye about how the tea tradition came about for instance or that alcohol used to be seen as good sustenance for hard-working people. Do that often and you’ll learn a few things you didn’t know yet.

The other four are much easier reads.

The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin Modern Classics)

Rich Britain

The Making of Modern Britain

SHOPPED: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets

A History of Modern Britain

Three books I recommend

They make very good reading. The first book helps you develop an understanding of the principles behind laws (and partly also why judges sometimes decide the way they do). The second book is handy for when you are doing business with companies in other countries, and the third one can make you see where people from other cultures and countries are coming from. Concepts like “truth”, “time” and “pain” are not as fixed as we tend to think but have strong cultural components.

  1. Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? 
  2. Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity
  3. When Cultures Collide, 3rd Edition: Leading Across Cultures 3rd by Lewis, Richard D. (2005)