David McKay was born and educated in the United States, holds degrees in philosophy (B.A., Swarthmore), linguistics (M.Sc., MIT), and international relations (M.A., Webster), and has lived in The Hague since 1997. From 1999 to 2007, he translated speeches, diplomatic correspondence, and other texts for the Dutch foreign ministry.
From 2006 onward, he translated publications and exhibitions for many prominent Dutch publishers, scholars, and museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, the National Museum of Antiquities, and the Jewish Historical Museum. Over time, he has moved into the field of literary translation.
David now translates a wide range of books and shorter writings: fiction, literary and popular non-fiction, short stories, poetry, art and design books, and scholarly works. His interests include theater, poetic prose, narrative non-fiction, classics, historical novels, poetry in traditional forms, science writing and science fiction, psychology and philosophy, and Surinamese, Flemish, and Frisian literature. His work has been described as “dazzlingly lyrical” (Neel Mukherjee, The Guardian).
His other professional activities include teaching translation workshops, evaluating and judging translation quality, co-editing the website and newsletter New Dutch Books in English, and mentoring. He is a firm believer in artistic collaboration and enjoys working closely with authors, editors, theatre makers, granting agencies, and other translators.
David was awarded the Vondel Prize for his translation of the historical novel War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize International, shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, and featured on top ten lists by major American and British newspapers. His translation of Hertmans’s The Convert was published in 2019 to widespread acclaim from critics and readers.
He co-translated, with Ina Rilke, the new English edition (NYRB Classics, 2019) of Multatuli’s anti-colonialist classic Max Havelaar, the most influential work in the history of Dutch literature. This translation was shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize 2020.