Dutch author Jaap Robben’s debut novel Birk has been published in English by World Editions as You Have Me to Love translated by David Doherty.
The book tells the story of Mikael Hammerman, a shy, imaginative and sensitive boy of nine when his father Birk tragically drowns, tracing the impact on Mikael’s life through his teenage years with his difficult mother Dora. The narrative plays out on a small, remote island somewhere between Scotland and Norway. After his father’s death, Mikael retreats further into his fantasy world, initially entertaining the idea that his father will return, carried back to them by the ocean currents. His mother increasingly demands attention, preventing Mikael from making contact with the outside world.
The book, which won a Dutch booksellers’ prize, has been praised for its evocative narrative voice, with reviewers drawing comparisons with Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003).
Jaap Robben (1984) is a poet, playwright, actor and children’s author, whose work for children has been shortlisted for the Flemish literature prize the Golden Owl.
David Doherty’s translation was praised in an article in The Irish Times for its sensitivity: "David Doherty’s sensitive translation is consistently alert to the nuances of the young boy’s responses and his growing awareness of – and introduction to – adult behaviour. It also realistically handles the coarser demands of some of the dialogue between other characters."