Koh Su

Works in Translation


Puthut EA, translated by Annie Tucker
Published as a part of Transpacific Literary Project: Residue, Nov 08, 2017

First published in Drama Itu Berkisah Terlalu Jauh


“Koh Su” evokes the particular melancholy of Indonesians born well after 1965 and its immediate aftermath—left trying to trace a sociopolitical history of state terror and mass trauma that is always oblique, puzzling over a residue of loss that remains intangible and yet clings to everything. In Bahasa Indonesia, the spirit of a situation is known as its “rasa,” which also means flavor, or taste. “Koh Su” uses literal taste to capture the rasa of this psychological or existential position with a story about a vanished town cook and his fabled signature dish.

In the story it is implied that Koh Su, a mysterious, mythologized cook of fried rice, was murdered during the mass killings of 1965. At the risk of stating the obvious, to Indonesians Koh Su is a Chinese name, and Chinese Indonesians were targeted in these killings, ostensibly because of links to communism but also due to long-standing racial tensions expressed in numerous incidents of violence both before and since. The town has never forgotten him, however, and seems to be in a state of unresolved grief that takes the shape of a constant search for any trace of Koh Su’s legacy.

Read the full story here.