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Potions and Paper Cranes

Book — Women in Translation


Potions and Paper Cranes

by Lan Fang
Translated by Elisabet Titik Murtisari

Format: Paperback, English
256 page(s)
ISBN/ISBN13: 0983627339/9780983627333
Published Dec 01, 2013 by Dalang Publishing

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Potions and Paper Cranes gives the reader a glimpse into Indonesian history. The way things were at the end of the Japanese occupation of the country during WWII, and the onset of the Indonesian Revolution immediately thereafter (1942-1945). This novel affirms the fragility of hatred and the capacity of memory and love to endure a lifetime of separation.1

Sulis is a young woman who sells potions in Surabaya’s harbor district. In her basket she carries sweet rice and ginger potion, betel leaf potion, and tamarind leaf refreshing potion. Her tonics remedy everything from obesity to weakening virility. The route is long and the days are hot. She meets Sujono, a coolie with dreams of becoming a freedom fighter. They marry and have a son, Joko, that Sujono believes is from Sulis being with another man. Behind the walls of their squalid tenement they fight their own war, while on the streets World War II comes to an end and the Indonesian Revolution is on the rise.

Matsumi, a poor girl growing up in a fishing village in Japan, always wanted to be a geisha. Her beauty and grace help Matsumi realize her goal and soon she is called to Java by a Japanese general to provide him with pleasure while waging war. She works at a club on Kembang Jepun until Sujono sees her. He is immediately taken by her exotic loveliness. They, too, have a child, and are torn apart by desire and jealousy while Indonesia struggles for its first breaths as a new nation.


  1. Lian Gouw 


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