Alex Hijmans answers some questions from the public about his new book 26 September 2016
1.An tearmann (The reservation) is your fifth work and your second novel that has been published by Cois Life. What inspired you to write this book?
There is no easy solution to the conflict that inspired the plot of *An tearmann*, i.e. the ongoing strife between various indigenous peoples in Brazil (where I live) and local landowners. I wanted to look at that question in the form of fiction. Predictably, I found no easy answers.
2. With regards to your writing style do you dedicate specific times to your work or do you wait for inspiration to come and also are you content when a text is finished or do you want to change things even after the text is published?
I get up early and get to work. In my experience, inspiration happens when you sit down to work, not the other way around.
With regards to changing pieces of writing after publication: I’ve actually done that. There’s a short story in my collection Gonta, ‘Deich nóta ghorma’, to which I made significant changes after published. In fact, it has a whole new ending. I like to read the new version of that story aloud at readings now, in order to give it some time in the spotlight. It’s not something that happens to me often, though – wanting to change what’s already in print.
3. As you have spent a period dealing with a minority language, how difficult is it for a Dutch person to write in a minority language in a Portuguese environment? Do you fall between three stools?
Contrary to popular opinion it’s not difficult at all to have more than one language going on in one’s head. I speak, read or write Dutch, Irish, Portuguese and English on a daily basis. It just so happens that I write most often in Irish, because that’s the language I started out in as a professional writer.
What I do miss, from time to time, is the opportunity for personal contact with those who read my books, and, conversely, the opportunity to share my work with those around me.
4. An tearmann is a book written in a language which is under threat, about an indigenous culture which is under threat – Could you discuss the link between the two?
Of course there is a link between the two, and this is exactly why the viewpoint character in *An tearmann* is an Irish speaker. However, rather than using the plight of a (fictional) indigenous tribe in South America as a pat metaphor for the situation the Irish language and its speakers find themselves in, what I wanted to do was challenge the notion – common among minority groups – that the underdog is always right. Sometimes there is no ‘right’.
5. As a final point, we’ve heard that many language learners find your story inspirational, what advice would you have for people on their own ‘turas teanga’?
Don’t be afraid of Irish language books, and don’t be ashamed to use a dictionary!