The Interpreter from Java by Alfred Birney, a novel you won’t forget

Today it’s our stop on The Interpreter from Java blog tour, which was written by Alfred Birney and translated by David Doherty.

Alan Noland discovers his father’s memoirs and learns the truth about the violent man he despised.

In this unsparing family history, Alan distils his father’s life in the Dutch East Indies into one furious utterance. He reads about his work as an interpreter during the war with Japan, his life as an assassin, and his decision to murder Indonesians in the service of the Dutch without any conscience. How he fled to the Netherlands to escape being executed as a traitor and met Alan’s mother soon after.

As he reads his father’s story Alan begins to understand how the war transformed his father into the monster he knew.

The Interpreter from Java shines the light on a crucial period in dutch history. It documents the main protagonist’s relationship with his father and how he was treated. The storytelling is beautifully done. It’s raw, honest and vulnerable. Switching between Alan’s memories of his childhood and the memoirs of his father, which show how and why he became the man Alan remembers.

This is a book that has been so carefully and thoughtfully translated by David Doherty and it doesn’t lose the esscence of the story that Alfred Birney was conveying. The Interpreter from Java is a story that will linger with the reader long after they’ve closed the book.

You can get a copy of the book here, it’s out now via Head of Zeus.

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