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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘The Interpreter From Java’
by Alfred Birney
Teaser Tuesday

An open book led on a table with a lilac flower resting on the open pages - featured image for Teaser Tuesday posts - caption reads 'Take A Look - Read The Book?'


This is a meme for all you page surfers out there!

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



“The trunk in the basement”

A short flight of whitewashed steps led down from the street to Willem’s small front garden, with its assortment of dying trees, loose paving stones and car tyres. I would sit at a little table in his kitchen writing lyrics in colourful notebooks, reading books by the Russian masters or playing guitar. The kitchen window afforded a view of paint peeling off the wooden façade of the living room where Corrie sat and read her Bible, unless electric currents were coursing through her limbs, an affliction she insisted was the work of the Germans. Each morning, Willem put a fresh square of lino under her seat to stop the urine rotting the wood of her chair. She had  her good weeks, when she was able to do the housework and wash the sheets of their migrant lodgers. The room the six of them shared contained three bunk beds and was at the end of a long hallway accessed through the kitchen. They came from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, and adored Corrie for taking such good care of them. When she was ill and unable to clean up after them, they prayed for her. If it was a bad week, they would each give me a guilder to take their sheets to the launderette.

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

If you still need to know more, check out those all important opening lines at ‘Book Beginnings On Friday

Just to help you get those words into some context – check out the premise below.


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.

Image of author Alfred Birney

The mem host image for Teaser Tuesday, updated December 2016 'The Purple Booker'

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Ambrosia at ‘The Purple Booker‘. Each week she shares her own teaser lines and invites other bloggers to do the same. So if you have a few moments, why not stop by and see what’s on offer this time, after all, you never know where that next great read is going to come from!

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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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    • Hi Sherrie,

      I checked out the author credentials after I had agreed to take part in a review tour. Maybe had I done so before agreeing, I might have turned this one down, as it is written at a level far above my pay grade. I really needed to work at getting the storyline and narrative into some coherent context!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope that you are staying safe and well 🙂

    • Hi Laura,

      Yes! there are many such descriptive passages in this chunkster read, in fact I had to stop myself from including in my review, all the many ‘memorable quotes’ I came across. The book is mostly written as a diary, which is a little disconcerting on such a large scale storyline and the content is at times both graphic and very emotionally disturbing!

      I am grateful for your comment and for you taking the time to stop by 🙂

    • Hi Kelly,

      I’m not so sure I would call this one well written, as it is predominantly diary based (remember that one extremely lengthy opening sentence I shared!), so it is a bit rambling and not very clear whose voice we are hearing in some places.

      I am not sure about just how much is fact and how much fiction, however it is definitely not my usual reading, which probably made it even more heavy going.

      That however, is a purely personal view, as there is no doubting the book’s merit as an important piece of social history, as well as an insight into the political machinations of a part of the world about which I knew very little.

      Great as a one off detour from my usual reading genres 🙂

    • Hi Kathy,

      Arto is definitely a very disturbed and emotionally damaged character. Beaten and abused by his own father, he then commits almost every aspect of his life to his personal diaries. These are then found by his sons, who intersperse the diary entries with their own harrowing accounts of the physical and mental abuse heaped on their mother, themselves and their siblings, by Arto.

      A demanding and emotional read, but with loads of facts about the Dutch East Indies (Indonesian) history that I never knew!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I always value your visits and I hope that all is well with you 🙂

    • Hi! Anca,

      Thanks for stopping by today, it is good to ‘meet’ you. I enjoy making new friends and always value comments which spark debate.

      I know that this book isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, however when I saw on your ‘about’ page that you were studying history, I did wonder whether you might have enjoyed it. Then I noticed the time periods you are actually covering in your studies, so that explains your reticence.

      Some of the writing in the book was very disjointed and quite rambling and I found myself having to concentrate really hard, to stay on track.

      Writing my review, which publishes very soon, was quite a challenge, however I discovered much about the history of an area of the world I have never really given much thought to before, which did influence my rating in the review.

      I hope that you are enjoying this lovely weather and Stay Safe 🙂

Written by Yvonne