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The Death of Murat Idrissi interview

The Death of Murat Idrissi interview

In our next Man Booker International Prize 2019 longlist interview, author Tommy Wieringa explains where the inspiration for his story came from, while translator Sam Garrett tells us how he’s seen a change in the reception of translated fiction. 


Tommy Wieringa, author of The Death of Murat Idrissi

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Since I found out, I’ve received congratulations from all around the world. It’s made me realise what an honour this is.

Can you give us a taste of your longlisted book The Death of Murat Idrissi?

It’s a novel on a topic which I’ve written about in many different ways before, and one of the main European topics: migration. It is a story about second-generation migrants, two girls who don’t belong to any place, so they feel a sense of displacement.

What inspired you to write this story?

In 2004, I saw a news article about two girls who tried to smuggle a boy into Europe after a holiday in Morocco. The idea interested me, so I ended up visiting the court case and spoke to them directly to hear their story. Ten years later, I wrote this novel.



Sam Garrett, translator of The Death of Murat Idrissi

What has it been like to be longlisted?

Exciting, of course. Translation is a quiet profession, so when friends and colleagues and authors you’ve translated suddenly shout out “congratulations!” when they see you, it’s startling, but heart-warming. 

What did you most like about translating The Death of Murat Idrissi?

When Tommy Wieringa is on a major stylistic and narrative roll, as he is in this book, it’s a thrill to follow him over hill and dale. I loved trying to get Ilham’s and Thouraya’s voices down pat and watching the suspense build, both on the Dutch page and on my computer screen. On top of all that, the novel is so timely and so full of truths, about modern-day Holland and the vicissitudes of being a second-generation European, that I sometimes felt I was translating news rather than fiction.  

You have translated many novels over the course of your career. Have you seen a change in the reception of translated fiction?

Certainly. When I started off, Dutch – English translators were surprised to receive a commission from a publishing house of repute. Today, it’s more common to ask “what are you working on now?” rather than “are you working on anything?” In the last 15 years or so, the big houses have been publishing much more Dutch literature and discovering that there is audience for it. In the last five to ten years, I’m also pleased to say, a number of excellent, gutsy, smaller publishers have come on the scene too, with the time and connections to read abroad and to be informed by a network of knowledgeable readers/ translators. Fantastic translations are appearing and experiencing success: fiction, non-fiction and poetry that the big girls and boys would have been afraid to burn their fingers on in the past.