New Zealand thriller to be published in Afrikaans translation

New Zealand author Zirk van den Berg’s acclaimed crime novel Nobody Dies will be published in Afrikaans translation in South Africa in 2013.

It is rare for New Zealand books to be published in Afrikaans translation, though it has happened to authors such as Margaret Mahy. The Afrikaans language community is almost twice as large as the New Zealand population.

Nobody Dies was originally published by Random House New Zealand in 2004 and then published as an ebook by Say Books in 2011. On its original publication The New Zealand Herald named it one of the top five thrillers of the year.

Nobody Dies is set in South Africa. It tells the story of a policewoman in charge of the witness protection programme who finds it easier to kill her charges rather than set them up with new lives. As they are between lives while in her care, nobody misses them and her crimes go undiscovered. Then an innocent man enters the programme and forces change.

South African publisher Kwela (part of the country’s premier Afrikaans publishing group, Media24) approached Van Den Berg, proposing an Afrikaans translation of the book. Though Nobody Dieswas originally written in English after the author had migrated to New Zealand, Van Den Berg’s first language is Afrikaans and he made his debut writing in the language. He is undertaking the translation himself.

“The translation is surprisingly challenging in parts, especially the more poetic passages,” says Van Den Berg. “One of the real difficulties was translating the title. A direct translation or anything close to it simply didn’t work, so we ended up opting for something completely different.”

The Afrikaans title, ’n Ander Mens, can mean both “another human” and “a different person”, as in someone who has changed.

The book is slated for publication in May. Meanwhile, the original English version is available  directly from Say Books.