People from Bloomington

Book / Collection of Short Stories

by Budi Darma
Translated by Tiffany Tsao

Format: Paperback, English
192 page(s)
ISBN/ISBN13: /9780143136606
Published Apr 12, 2022 by Penguin Classics

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Also see Orang-Orang Bloomington

An eerie, alienating, yet comic and profoundly sympathetic short story collection about Americans in America by one of Indonesia’s most prominent writers, now in an English translation for its fortieth anniversary, with a foreword by Intan Paramaditha.

In these seven stories of The People from Bloomington our peculiar narrators find themselves in the most peculiar of circumstances and encounter the most peculiar of people. Set in Bloomington, Indiana, where the author lived as a graduate student in the 1970s, this is far from the idyllic portrait of small-town America. Rather, sectioned into apartment units and rented rooms, and gridded by long empty streets and distances traversable only by car, it’s a place where the solitary can all too easily remain solitary; where people can at once be obsessively curious about others, yet fail to form genuine connections with anyone. The characters feel their loneliness acutely and yet deliberately estrange others. Budi Darma paints a realist world portrayed through an absurdist frame, morbid and funny at the same time.

For decades, Budi Darma has influenced and inspired many writers, artists, filmmakers, and readers in Indonesia, yet his stories also transcend time and place. With The People from Bloomington, Budi Darma draws us to a universality recognized by readers around the world–the cruelty of life and the difficulties that people face in relating to each other while negotiating their own identities. The stories are not about “strangeness” in the sense of culture, race, and nationality. Instead, they are a statement about how everyone, regardless of nationality or race, is strange, and subject to the same tortures, suspicions, yearnings, and peculiarities of the mind.

Yet, if Darma’s style makes for easy reading, his challenging characters do not.
Atika Shubert in People of Bloomington (Litro Magazine, May 12, 2022)
I am horrified by the descriptions of xenophobia in some of the stories: even when Americans are friendly, there is a distance between cultures.
Kat at Thornfield Hall Redux in The Reading Life: Budi Darma’s “People from Bloomington” (Personal Blog, May 11, 2022)
People from Bloomington is a reminder, if one were needed, that translation is—and can’t help but be—an act of creation.
Peter Gordon in “People from Bloomington” by Budi Darma (Asian Review of Books, Apr 10, 2022)

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