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‘The Interpreter From Java’
by Alfred Birney
Book Beginnings
First Lines

 

This is a meme for all you ‘First Page Browsers’

Although I have to say, that in this case, it is the first several pages which need to be browsed! I swear this is exactly how the text is written, not a semi-colon in sight and yes, there are only two sentences to this extract – and one of them is only fourteen words long! – This is certainly going to be an interesting read, so take a deep breath and lets begin!

Cover image of the book 'The Interpreter From Java' by author Alfred Birney

THE INTERPRETER FROM JAVA‘ by ALFRED BIRNEY

BOOK BEGINNINGS / FIRST LINES

CHAPTER ONE

DISSONANTS

GUITAR AND TYPEWRITER

“As a young man in Surabaya, my father saw the flying cigars of the Japanese Air Force bomb his home to rubble, he saw Japanese soldiers behead civilians, he committed acts of sabotage for the Destruction Corps, was tortured and laid in an iron box to broil beneath the burning sun, he saw Japanese soldiers feed truckloads of caged Australian prisoners to the sharks, he saw Punjabi soldiers under British command sneak up on the Japanese and slit their throats, he learned of the death of his cousin on the Burma railway, heard how his favourite uncle was tortured to death by Japanese soldiers on his father’s family estate, he betrayed his ‘hostess’ sister’s Japanese lover, he guided Allied troops through the heat of East Java, where Indonesian rebels were hung by the ankles and interrogated while he – an interpreter – hammered away at a typewriter, he helped the Allies burn villages to the ground, he heard the screams of young rebels consumed by flames as they ran from their simple homes into a hail of gunfire, he learned to handle a gun and, at a railway station, riddled a woman and her child with bullets when a Javanese freedom fighter took cover behind them, he led an interrogation unit in Jember, broke the silence of the most tight-lipped prisoners, he was thrown 250 feet into a ravine when his armoured vehicle hit a landmine, he was ordered by a Dutch officer to supervise the transport of inmates from the municipal jail in Jember and, arriving at Wonokromo station in Surabaya after a nine-hour journey, he dragged the corpses of suffocated prisoners from the goods train, he found the body of an Indo friend who had blown his brains out because his girl had slept with a Dutch soldier, and, amid the chaos of Bersiap, he killed young men with whom he had a score to settle. But for him the worst thing was when the neck of his guitar broke.”

So, you have taken a look, will you read the book?

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Just to give you an extra helping hand, here is the book’s premise …

THE INTERPRETER FROM JAVA by ALFRED BIRNEY

Cover image of the book 'The Interpreter From Java' by author Alfred BirneyArto Nolan is the father’s name; his son Alan strives to overcome his loathing and comprehend the man who abused him and beat his mother.

His father spent his evenings typing on his Remington. Later, Alan discovers his father had been working on his memoirs. He reads about Arto’s ruthless work as an interpreter who not only translated but also led interrogations, tortured prisoners, and did not hesitate to murder.

Arto’s passages are chilling in their detachment. He first describes how he was abused as a child by his own father. He later became an assassin. At first his targets were Japanese; after the occupation ended, he murdered Indonesians in the service of the Dutch, without question. The source of his loyalty to his overlords, from a country he had never seen, remains a mystery.

In this unsparing family history, 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.

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Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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4 comments
    • Hi Lorraine,

      This book is quite a chunkster read at a little under 600 pages, give the emotional intensity of the storyline. It is made even more challenging by the amount of words which seem to fill the pages, making this a read which needs great concentration and is definitely take some time to finish!

      Thanks for stopping by and stay safe 🙂

  • This definitely gets off to an intense start!! I really like the writing, though, and would wager it’s an interesting story that keeps the reader engaged. I look forward to your final review of it!

    • Hi Kelly,

      Believe me! the book is this intense all the way through and so far it has been a very slow read, as there seem to be lots of words crammed onto a page and demands great concentration to take everything in.

      This covers an area of World War II which I knew little about and whilst the book has been put into the genre of a fictionalised memoir, it is so much more than that!

      This is a great work of social history and literary fiction, and for anyone seriously interested in wartime writing, some of the content probably won’t be as much of an eye-opener, as it is for me!

      I’m not sure – no! I know, it isn’t what I thought it would be, but I’m not going to give up on it and only hope I can do any final review the justice it deserves!

      Have a good weekend 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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