Lips in the Chamber Pot

Book / Collection of Short Stories

by Hamsad Rangkuti
Translated by Harry Aveling

Format: Kindle Edition, English
120 page(s)
Published Jul 15, 2015 by

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Hamsad Rangkuti’s stories are carefully crafted, humorous, and often carry an unexpected twist. Overall, they deal lovingly with the diverse cultures of the disparate Indonesian Republic and with its turbulent history – from the Revolution of 1945–1949, fought to gain national independence from Dutch colonialism, through to the repressive presidential regime of General Suharto (1966–1998).

Hamsad came from a poor background: his father was a night watchman and a teacher of Koranic chanting, his mother sold vegetables in the town market-place and worked as a laborer in a tobacco plantation, gathering caterpillars and other pests. The characters in his stories are simple persons, subject to the wry judgment of the narrator, for better and for worse. For better, because rural folk maintain an innocence and a resilience in a changing world; for worse, because local pride and affectation, concern for social status, and the pressures of rapid social dislocation, all lead to the potential destruction of that innocence and resilience.

The narrator sees these dimensions from a distance; Hamsad has lived in Jakarta since 1966, but never fully adjusted to the vastness and indifference of modern life. His extensive involvement in the literary life of the national capital has taught him that some writers are sincere and pious human beings, others self-centered frauds. “I am a hopeless dreamer,” he admits in the Afterword to this book. The stories translated here, honored in Indonesia and abroad, offer readers a chance to share in his dreams. Being located at an indefinite point between “fiction and lies”, they are universal in their appeal.

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