More articles Wednesday 26 August 2020 9:10pm
“I’m as happy as a cow with seven udders” 2020 International Booker Prize Winning Author & Translator in their first public conversation
Following the announcement of The Discomfort of Evening as the winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize this afternoon, winning author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and translator Michele Hutchison, along with their interpreter Johanna McCalmont, joined Chair of the Judges Ted Hodgkinson in their first public interview at the Edinburgh International Book Festival Online this evening.
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld at 29 is the youngest winner of the Booker International Prize, and The Discomfort of Evening is the first Dutch novel to be shortlisted. The judges considered a shortlist of six novels translated into English from another language. Ted Hodgkinson, describing the prize as a catalyst for literature in translation, went on to say, “Our shortlist is really superb – there are books in there which are willing to upend mythic foundations, to burst the banks of the novel, there are books that are incandescent in language and books which are really deft and controlled – it’s an extraordinary field. Yet despite that immense competition, we all felt very strongly and very collectively and clearly that The Discomfort of Evening deserves the award, it’s a remarkable book, on so many levels, such a finely felt translation. This is a prize that really celebrates the work that translators do. We thought that this was a remarkable achievement in terms of its translation in the way it captured that perspective, that perspective of a 10 year old on the world that makes it entirely new.”
Rijneveld, who is a dairy farmer as well as a writer and had spent six years working on the novel, had earlier described themselves as “happy as a cow with seven udders.” They now continued “I have so many udders now I have lost count. It somehow feels unreal, I’m overwhelmed.” Translator Michele Hutchison added “I’m starting to get udders too! It’s a real gamechanger to have a prize that celebrates the art of translation as well as writing.”
They enjoyed the experience of working together on fine-tuning the translation and hope to continue to work together in the future. Rijneveld has poetry to be translated and Michele added that she was looking forward to the next novel.
The Discomfort of Evening tells the story of Jas and her devout farming family in a strict Christian community in rural Netherlands. One winter’s day, her older brother joins an ice skating trip. He never returns. As grief overwhelms the farm, Jas succumbs to a vortex of increasingly disturbing fantasies, watching her family disintegrate into a darkness that threatens to derail them all.
Rijneveld said “I wanted to show how a family can cope with grief and this sadness, and I wanted to look at how children do that in particular. And they all do it in a different way. . . . It’s such a huge event in a family and they’re not talking about it. But I wanted to see what it would look like if they were dealing with it.”
Asked how she started the translation, Hutchison said “It’s about channelling the voice – feeling it, going with it, finding your way, and that happens in the first few pages.”
The conversation can be watched on demand for free on the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s website – edbookfest.co.uk. The Book Festival continues until Monday 31 August and all events are available to watch free of charge on the website.