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

‘The Interpreter From Java’
by Alfred Birney
Mailbox Monday
New On My Shelf

Image of a red letter box set in a wall. Featured image for Mailbox Monday meme

Given the strange times in which we are living right now, authors, publishers and publicists alike, are all suffering like the rest of us!

So few new books are being presented to market right now, that publishers such as Head of Zeus, one of my regular ‘go to’ sites and Midas PR, one of their associate PR companies, deserve all the support they can get, as of course do all those lovely authors out there, who keep on writing for our entertainment, regardless!

Dedicated book / reader social platforms, are all also trying their utmost to promote and sustain interest in as many books as possible during the emergency, including one of my favourites, NetGalley.

Whilst this particular book may be a little outside of my usual reading genres, I was intrigued by both the mix of fact with fiction, and that it is set in a location which is also new to my reading!

My Blog Tour date is yet to be confirmed, however it is on a review only basis and should be sometime within the first two weeks of June!


Translated by David Doherty

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 BirneyAlfred Birney (1951) is the author of an oeuvre of largely autobiographical fiction and non-fiction, in which his family’s Dutch-Indies history often plays a central role.

His debut novel, Tamara’s Lunapark was published in 1987 and he edited a voluminous anthology of literary fiction from the Dutch East Indies in 1998.

Two of Alfred’s most important novels, Birds Around A Woman, 1991 and The Innocence of a Fish, 1995 were translated and published in Indonesia. In them he writes about his youth, dominated by his father, and the years he had to spend at boarding school.

For The Interpreter From Java, his most recent novel, where he describes both his parents’ histories and the impact their lives had on his own, considered to be his magnum opus, he was awarded the Libris Literature Prize and the Henriëtte Roland Holst Prize.

Alfred lives in the Netherlands.

Picture of an English red post box - generic image to link to the mailbox Monday meme

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share links to the books that came into their house during the last week. This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well, after all you never know where that next “must read” book will 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! Naida,

      Due to the very tight for time nature of this Blog Tour, and because my spot is to be a full review, I was at one point, reading two books at the same time, which is something I try not to do!

      Having managed to clear the decks of my previous book, I can now concentrate on this one fully, although I’m not sure that is going to make much difference! I am finding it quite heavy going, although it was billed as a fictionalised memoir and intense doesn’t even begin to describe it!

      I am hoping to try and immerse myself in the writing a little more, but I can see it being a long hard slog to finish, although purely as a piece of literature, I can see it garnering a few accolades.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and I hope that all is well with you 🙂

  • Definitely one that is outside of my normal reading, but I can see how it might be interesting. Based on your reply to Naida, though, I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my wishlist anytime soon! I’m definitely not up for books that require any serious concentration at the moment.

    • Hi Kelly,

      If you are interested in World War II from a slightly different perspective, then this is a definite ‘must’ of a read.

      I haven’t read very much yet, so I am hoping that there might be a slight change in direction. As it stands right now, this is definitely too much of a memoir for my liking and the writing style seems a bit all over the place, which I don’t think is anything to do with the translation!

      Still, I have just about enough time to take things slowly and try to get behind the sentiment of the story, so fingers crossed!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope that all is well with you 🙂

    • Hi Kathy,

      I also assumed that this one would be a good fit for me, as I generally try not to accept Blog Tour or review requests for books to which I don’t feel I could do proper justice.

      I shall need to be sat on my own and very quiet to read this one and try to get around all the nuances of the storyline – as it is a very powerful message!

      Thanks for visiting this time and I hope that you are staying safe and well 🙂

  • This sounds like it might be a rough read – but certainly interesting. I’ll be interested in your thoughts. Have a good week and stay safe.

    • Hi Martha,

      The further I get into this one, and I am having to take it very slowly, the more both of your observations become so true. Rough and difficult to read sometimes, but interesting, powerful and a great piece of social history. I’m definitely not going to give up on it!

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope that things are going okay for you 🙂

Written by Yvonne