The International Booker Prize for the year 2020 was announced August 26. Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld — who uses the pronoun they — won the coveted honour for debut novel, The Discomfort of Evening, translated into English by Michele Hutchison. The novel had previously won the prestigious ANV Debut Prize. The 29-year-old works on a dairy farm and is an acclaimed poet. Their collection, Caulf’s Caul was awarded the C Buddingh’ Prize for best poetry debut in 2015.
— Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (@mariek1991) August 26, 2020
The novel begins with a young girl Jas angry for not being allowed to accompany her brother to ice-skating. In a rage, she wishes death upon him. And then, the hastily-thought wish comes true. He dies. The startling debut, which is a fascinating case study of grief in the aftermath of a death, has been inspired by her own life, from the loss of her own brother.
In an interview with Inews.co.uk, they acknowledged the same. “When I started writing stories, they all came back to the loss of my brother. I had to tell this story before I could tell any other. If a family loses a member, they can become closer to each other or they can drift. Jas’s family grows apart and their house is filled with grief,” they said, adding, “But not everything in the book is autobiographical.”
The novel has been raved by critics much before it won the honour. In a review in The Guardian, journalist Holly Williams wrote, ‘Translated by Michele Hutchison, Rijneveld’s writing is raw and impassive, though often grotesquely vivid in its descriptions. Skinned knuckles look like “ruptured prawns’ heads”; bits of wet crisp at the swimming pool “stick to your feet like blisters”. Jas has a singular imagination, too: she pictures her dead granny’s face “beginning to ooze eggnog as thin as yolk” out of eye sockets and pores.”‘
“A bestselling sensation in the Netherlands by a prize-winning young poet, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s debut novel lays everything bare. It is a world of language unlike any other, which Michele Hutchison’s striking translation captures in all its wild, violent beauty,” the International Booker Prize mentioned on their website.
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