Gerbrand Bakker interview

The Detour mmp 9780099563679

I ‘m pleased to bring you an interview with the Independent foreign fiction prize longlistee Gerbrand Bakker .His longlisted book The detour (ten white geese in the Us) Has Just come out in paperback in the UK ,So when I was offered chance to ask him a few questions I jumped at the chance
1.Why do you goes such isolated locations for your books?
I like to put people away from distractions, big cities, hustle and bustle. Just to see what happens to them. And in a very strange way I’m – even though I live in Amsterdam – not really able to write about a city and all the things that happen in them. Just like I’m not really able to write about skating, and skating (speed skating) is what I’ve done for 15 years, including competition. It always looks strange, reads strange.
2.Have you a connection with Wales, and is that why you choose it for The Detour?
Because I’ve been there quite a number of times. In fact, I have the strange habit of wanting to climb Snowdon once a year. The land there feels old, ancient, mysterious. I always wanted to use it for ‘something’ and somewhere in 2009 Emily Dickinson, a woman (and a feeling) and North-Wales came together in my head.
3.Did you pick Emily Dickson first as the poet to be the one Emile taught or after as she fitted the character?
No, the book started with this poem, that’s why I choose it as the motto. So the woman (Emilie/Agnes) had to fit in with Dickinson, and not the other way round. And then, when I was writing, I discovered (and the woman discovers) that there are some similarities between her and Dickinson. So there is a sort of love-hate relationship between them.
4.How closely did you work with the translator on this book?
Quite close, closer than on any other book. Because there were some real problems in the translation. For instance: how do you translate a book that in Dutch deals with the translation of an American poem into Dutch? I thought the book couldn’t be translated, but David Colmer is very calm and he said: “Don’t worry, I’m the translator, let me do my job.”
5.What impact did winning the IMPAC prize for The Twin have for you?
I bought a house in The Eifel, Germany. I’m renovating it at the moment and there is going to be a wonderful ‘writing-room’ in it, which can only be accessed via a stairway on the outside of the house. There is going to be a log burner in it, as the whole house is heated with log burners. That is what happened in the end with the IMPAC money. I did (not yet) buy a carthorse with it. It also gave me the opportunity to NOT write for a while. I’ve not been inclined to write for a couple of years now, and the money partly enables me to do this. The IMPAC did not make me think: wow, I’m a real, big writer now, also because I myself have been in jury’s and I know how things work. There is always a bit of luck and bargaining involved…

Bakker, Gerbrand c. Eimer Wieldraaijer (1)
6.I Asked Cees Nooteboom about Dutch literature last year he described it as ‘inward looking’. What is your view?
I presume that he meant this not as a compliment, and that he is not an inward-looking writer? I don’t think one can make such a general statement. There are enough writers who to me don’t write inward-looking, like Anon Grunberg or Peter Buwalda. But it is maybe true that Dutch writers take it on them to write about for instance world politics, maybe because in the end we are a very small country. And not many Dutch writers have the stature of Orhan Pamuk. I cannot think of one Dutch writer who ever became ‘big’ in the UK or the United States. There is also a reverence for especially English and American writers here. If you look at the bestselling books at the end of a year, there’s hardly a Dutch book to be found in the top 10. I don’t think that’s the case in the US or the UK. And nobody can convince me that American or English books are intrinsically better than Dutch books.
7.What you currently working on?
Nothing. I’m working in my house and garden, and sometimes I write articles in magazines. I travel a lot for my work these days. To Germany, but also to Argentina, the US and South-Africa.
8.What is your favourite Dutch book not written by you?
Het Bureau (The Office), written by J.J. Voskuil. A book that consists of seven parts, 5000 pages in total, about a man who works in an office for 35 years and is struggling with that. Only recently the first book was translated into German, it has not been translated into English. That would be a mammoth-task for any translator…

Many thanks Gerbrand and good luck with the IFFP 2013

Here are my reviews of his two novels

The twin

The detour

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rise
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 01:56:58

    Great interview. I do hope to read his novels. I’m intrigued with the differing English titles of his latest book. I’m interested that it’s a translation about the translation of a poem. I’ll add it to the reading list I’m compiling of books with translator as protagonist.


  2. Tony
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 02:25:09

    Another coup – and with Nooteboom and Bakker, you’re becoming the go-to man on Dutch lit 😉

    I loved this one (about to start my review), and I hope it makes the shortlist 🙂


  3. Brian Joseph
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 10:05:24

    Great and insightful interview!

    I smiled at the unique complexities involved in translating this novel!


  4. parrish lantern
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 20:53:07

    great interview, as with Rise the poetry translation has real appeal. At the moment I’m waiting for this book to arrive.


  5. Tom Cunliffe
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 08:19:54

    That’s a very interesting interview isn’t it. Just shows what winning a major prize can do for you. I have only reviewed 3 Dutch books on my blog – I’d love to read Het Bureau (The Office) so let’s hope for a translation i.d.c.


  6. Iris
    Mar 18, 2013 @ 08:52:36

    Oh my, I admit I am a little jealous of how you always manage to get interviews with Dutch authors on your blog, Stu. And this is a lovely and very interesting interview, as well! I am about to read my first book by Bakker, and hopefully I will read a second one before the inevitable Dutch Lit Month in June (that is, if I decide to host that again depending on interest).

    Can I make one quick note and say that its Arnon Grunberg, instead of Anon? (I can imagine getting the Dutch names accidentally misspelled).

    You know, I feel as if Dutch lit might have a small but rising star in the US and UK, even if it is still marginal, in the form of Herman Koch’s “The Dinner”. When I visited London, I was surprised to see it have such a central position on the shelves in almost any bookstore I entered, and lately I have been seeing quite a few reviews in the US blogosphere. Then again, I might be biased because Dutch titles stand out to me almost automatically within a blogfeed of a large number of posts. I’m not saying Herman Koch deserves this attention more than other Dutch writers, I wouldn’t know.. I have yet to read anything by him (also on the list for Dutch Lit Month).


  7. Trackback: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013 (Shadow Jury combined reviews) | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  8. evastalker
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 11:42:48

    Looking forward to reading Bakker, what a great interview. Love what he says about the luck and bargaining involved in winning prizes, too!


  9. Trackback: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Shortlist 2013 (Shadow Jury combined reviews) | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  10. Trackback: The Detour wins the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
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March 2013


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