Book Stories

Home – Leila S. Chudori (translated by John H. McGlynn)

Sep 30, 2015 / Home
Between 1965 and 1968 Indonesia entered a violent and tumultuous time. On 30 September 1965 a group of army conspirators gathered in Jakarta with the aim of kidnapping and killing seven army generals, one, Abdul Nasution, was to escape with the other six being killed. On 1 October the 30 September Movement announced it has seized political power with General Suharto (commander of the army’s strategic reserve), personally taking power. These events led to the “Partai Komunis Indonesia” (‘PKI’) or Indonesian Communist Party being blamed by the army leadership as a plot to seize power in their own right, and as a result the army embarked on a mission to purge or cleanse the country of the perceived communist threat. Within a month massive slaughters of alleged communists took place, with some estimates putting the number dead at over 1,000,000.

Recommendations from the Booksmith

Sep 24, 2015 / Beauty Is A Wound
Beauty Is a Wound, by Eka Kurniawan: Sprawling, magical and multi-generational, Kurniawan’s novel is a (finally translated) masterwork of Indonesian literature, just in time for a big, gorgeous fall read.

“Anak Ini Mau Mengencingi Jakarta?” by Ahmad Tohari

Sep 18, 2015 / “Anak ini Mau Mengencingi Jakarta?”
I so love Tohari’s prose. It’s beautifully-written, almost formal in its beauty, but very much approachable. More than any Indonesian writer I’ve read, I find that Tohari is the one who gets the balance between ...

Maya by Ayu Utami

Sep 16, 2015 / Maya (Bilangan Fu #4)
Maya is the third book of the Bilangan Fu series by Ayu Utami. This book is also linked to the Saman dwilogy that were published in early 2000s. During the read of this book, I ...

Sunday Book Review: ‘Beauty Is a Wound’ and ‘Man Tiger’ by Eka Kurniawan

Sep 09, 2015 / Beauty Is A Wound Man Tiger
In what is presumably late 1965, as Indonesia is racked by violence in the wake of a failed coup blamed on Communists, a gravedigger named Kamino hits upon a novel method of seduction: He allows himself to be possessed by the spirit of a recently murdered Communist so that the Communist’s daughter can speak with her father one last time. In gratitude, she cooks Kamino dinner. A week later, after Kamino has buried 1,232 Communists in one mass grave, she accepts his marriage proposal. By the time the newlyweds return from their honeymoon, Eka Kurniawan’s fictional Javanese city of Halimunda is “filled with corpses sprawled out in the irrigation channels and on the outskirts of the city, in the foothills and on the riverbanks, in the middle of bridges and under bushes. Most of them had been killed as they tried to escape.”

Where the Dead Refuse to Vanish

Sep 03, 2015 / Beauty Is A Wound Man Tiger
Does death exist in the realm of Kurniawan’s fiction or not? Told by an omniscient narrator, jumping back and forth across an Indonesian twentieth century that includes the final stage of 300 years of Dutch ...

2015 Fall Books Preview: 33 Can’t-Miss New Reads

Sep 01, 2015 / Man Tiger
Setting aside Jonathan Franzen’s ubiquitously discussed new novel Purity, fall 2015 is an embarrassment of literary riches. Intriguing fiction debuts, humorous essays from masters of the form and new offerings from some of the greatest ...

33 Must-Read Books for Fall 2015

Aug 31, 2015 /
Even though Jonathan Franzen’s Purity is the first book on this list, it is in many ways the least important. The truth is that after a dizzying autumn, we may not remember Franzen’s novel at ...

Eka Kurniawan, Beauty Is a Wound

Aug 29, 2015 / Beauty Is A Wound
So sorrowful, so savage, so freaking weird is Beauty Is a Wound that I found myself backtracking paragraphs, just to ensure I’d correctly understood their lunatic import. Eventually I accepted the fact that here was ...

The Great Booksellers Fall Preview

Aug 27, 2015 / Beauty Is A Wound
Summer beach reads now dispensed with, all evidence of sand and flip-flop summarily destroyed, it is soon time to return to real life (the lateness of Labor Day notwithstanding)—this means reading even more books. With ...