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Head of Zeus
The Interpreter from Java
03 Sep 2020 * TRADE PAPERBACK * £14.99 * 9781788544337

Alan Noland discovers his father's memoirs about the atrocities he committed in the Dutch East Indies during the war with Japan – and Alan begins to understand how war transformed his father into the monster he knew.

Fiction / FA (Fiction)
Extent: 542 pages  Format: 228 x 145 mm
EXPORT ONLY Exclusive: AU NZ IN ZA SG   Not for sale: GB CA US
The Interpreter from JavaAlfred Birney, translated by David Doherty

'What a great novel, its language and storytelling so light but also raw and lyrical. A tremendous writer. Read this book' ADRIAAN VAN DIS.

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 war transformed his father into the monster he knew.

Birney exposes a crucial chapter in Dutch and European history that was deliberately concealed behind the ideological facade of postwar optimism. Readers of this superb novel will find that it reverberates long afterwards in their memory.

Alfred Birney was born in 1951. For The Interpreter from Java he was awarded the Libris Literature Prize, the Netherlands' premier literary award, and the Henriëtte Roland Holst Prize. He lives in the Netherlands but speaks English fluently and will be coming to the UK for publication.

A major novel about violent colonial war, about the complicity of collaborators and the tragic consequences for the families of the perpetrators.

A book that British readers will easily understand, given our historical memories of Kenya, Malaya and other colonial wars.

Moving, angry and unique, a book that gazes into dark places and retains its humanity. 110,000 copies sold in the Netherlands.

MARKET: The Broken Word Adam Foulds; A Gesture Life Chang-Rae Lee; Pachinko Min-Jin Lee; The Reader Bernhard Schlink.


'A masterly novel about the violence of colonialism, the war of decolonisation, the repatriation of the collaborators and the consequences all of this has had on the families of those involved', De Groener Amsterdammer

'Birney mercilessly exposes a crucial part of Dutch history. This masterful novel will echo in the minds of its readers', De Volkskrant

'What a great novel, its language and storytelling so light but also raw and lyrical. A tremendous writer. Read this book', Adriaan van Dis, author of My Father's War and Betrayal

'A work of unbridled, incensed storytelling: an assault on the lazy assumptions of parochial, colonial history and a personal quest for redemption', South China Morning Post.

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