‘De vertalers’ (‘The Interpreters’) by Arnon Grunberg

Suggested by Caroline Mulder, my Dutch editor, who also edits the work of Arnon Grunberg and many other authors. Caroline suggested several other stories and authors, but I liked the triangular connection between us.

Caroline writes: “In just four pages, the reader is wrong-footed and the story proves to be far more horrific than you imagined,” succinctly summarising this harrowing story, in which we are introduced to a young woman and soon learn what she is capable of. Lara had a boyfriend who works at a gas station, which is five minutes’ walk from her mother’s house. She promised him she would be faithful, but she did not keep her promise. The pressure was too great. You need to blow off steam here. Sometimes the questioning goes on for five or six hours.
Questioning prisoners is like mopping with the tap open. So little comes out. They contradict one another. Or they all say the same. She often looks at the interpreters and asks: “Is that really all he said?”
She finds it hard to believe. But what can the interpreters do about it?
They also have a doctor present. He usually keeps to himself, as if he is above all this.
Sometimes they urinate on the prisoners during questioning. But only if the prisoner is not yet unconscious.
Farmers also urinate on their wounds to disinfect them.

From Hollands Maandblad, 2006. Available online in Dutch here

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