Book Stories


People of Bloomington

May 12, 2022 / People from Bloomington
People from Bloomington are strange indeed, at least in this translated collection of stories from Indonesian writer Budi Darma. In these seven fiction stories, Darma takes a mirror to the wide open spaces of the Midwest American college town of Bloomington, Indiana, where he studied for his PhD in the 1970s. What he reflects back is great loneliness, isolation and, despite all that space, a creeping claustrophobia.

‘Happy Stories, Mostly’ wins Republic of Consciousness Prize

May 12, 2022 / Happy Stories, Mostly
In the UK, Indonesian writer Norman Erikson Pasaribu and his publisher Tilted Axis Press have won this year’s Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, for Pasaribu’s short story collection Happy Stories, Mostly.

The Reading Life: Budi Darma’s “People from Bloomington”

May 11, 2022 / People from Bloomington
I highly recommend the Indonesian writer Budi Darma's People from Bloomington, a collection of short stories newly translated by Tiffany Tsao.  Like Darma, I attended graduate school in Bloomington, a beautiful, idyllic college town in Indiana, so I was curious about this book.  Although as a midwesterner I "assimilated" effortlessly, and loved the culture so much I would never have left had there had been any jobs, Darma, a student from Java, was isolated and lonely.  I am horrified by the descriptions of xenophobia in some of the stories: even when  Americans are friendly, there is a distance between cultures.

Gelombang, a Novel by Dee Lestari

May 09, 2022 / Supernova: Gelombang (Supernova #5)
As expected, Dee Lestari novels always captivated me. I’m amazed by her ability of stringing words to parse complicated understandings into a more easy to grasp sentences. All those theories about dream world are laid out clearly so the story could easily be enjoyed. The spiritual journey of the main character that become the basic plot gave the novel plenty of room to make the twist and turn that offer me thrills. Wait. Before I continue, I should say (again) this is not a book review. I found that most book reviews are filled with personal judgements. So I choose to share my experience in reading books instead. As this can also be viewed as a form of appreciation toward the work of the writers. And for that same reason, I’m going to erase ‘review’ category and move all its contents to the ‘journal’ category. And in this way my blog would look much simpler. The way I like it. Anyhow we need to appreciate others more so the world can be less intimidating to live. 😁

People from Bloomington: A Short Story Collection from Indonesia

Apr 28, 2022 / People from Bloomington
The Indonesian writer Budi Darma came to Bloomington, in 1974. Like so many people who come to Bloomington, he was here for school. He was already an established literary figure in Indonesia, as a writer of absurdist short stories. He came here to get a Master’s degree in creative writing, then a PhD in literature. His dissertation was on Jane Austen, if you’re curious about that kind of thing. But more importantly for our purposes: while he was here, he started writing stories inspired by the people around him. He finished the stories in Europe, on his way back to Indonesia, and he published it in 1980. It was called - fittingly - People from Bloomington.

The Girl from The Coast (1987) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, a Peasant Girl Turned an Aristocratic Wife

Apr 28, 2022 / The Girl from the Coast
GABY RUSLI WRITES (in her ongoing series on classic Indonesian literature) — Through versatility and natural eloquence, Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s, The Girl From The Coast (1987), took a seemingly simple story based on the author’s grandmother’s life into a complex metaphor that simultaneously represents female oppression and the exploitative dynamics between the ruling class and the poor. The Girl From The Coast is the semi-fictional story of an unnamed, impoverished fourteen-year-old girl, referred to in the book only as “the Girl.” She lives in an equally poor coastal village and finds herself married off to an unknown, wealthy aristocrat in need of another “practice wife” (a peasant woman made into a wife by an aristocrat only to be divorced and shunned when the aristocrat is no longer interested). As she traverses the rocky waters of her newfound societal station, she realizes how fragile and insecure life can be for a woman of no means in the face of a patriarchal caste-oriented society.

Indiana Absurd

Apr 22, 2022 / People from Bloomington
The late Budi Darma, one of Indonesia’s most beloved writers, spent a formative chapter of his life far from home, studying at Indiana University in the 1970s. He wrote a series of strikingly lonely short stories that would go on to form the collection People from Bloomington, first published in Indonesian in 1980. A man befriends his estranged father only to control him and ends up controlled himself. Someone steals his dead roommate’s poetry and enters it into a competition. Another character desperately tries to make contact with the old man across the street who may or may not be trying to shoot people from his attic room. With this absurd but oddly real little collection—and with his next novel, Olenka, also Indiana-inspired—Darma ascended into the pantheon of Indonesian literature, winning numerous awards, including the presidential medal of honor. Budi Darma may be barely known in the United States, but Tiffany Tsao—who has recently translated People from Bloomington for Penguin Classics—hopes that an English-language audience is ready to embrace this unparalleled Indonesian artist.

Orang-Orang Bloomington

Apr 19, 2022 / Orang-Orang Bloomington
Budi Darma’s narrative is always a place where readers will find the darkest sides of human beings: hatred, envy, spitefulness, loneliness, indifference, anger, obsession, resentment. If anyone ever read his works before (for example: Hotel Tua, Kritikus Adinan, or Olenka), they’ll know right away that the late Indonesian author never describes human beings as “okay” (literally or figuratively). People have ill-intentions, they have their own evil; and the tone in which Mr. Budi portrays them can always drive the reader even more to that dark corner where they wish (or deny) that they are not one of them. Orang-Orang Bloomington is no exception. Every piece of the seven short (and rather long) stories on the list brings us disturbing narrators who let us see more characters with even more disturbing behaviors and attitudes and thoughts, which often result in sort of saddening situations.

The Absurdist Meets Jane Austen in Bloomington

Apr 12, 2022 / People from Bloomington
I first read Budi Darma’s Orang-orang Bloomington (“People from Bloomington”) at a very young age and had little understanding of the book other than that it is a collection of stories about the lives of white people in America. My second and more exciting encounter with Budi Darma happened much later, in my early 30s, when I was writing my novel, The Wandering, about a Third World woman who travels the globe with a pair of cursed red shoes. As I engaged with the themes of global mobility and cosmopolitanism in my novel, I researched Indonesian authors who, like myself, had lived abroad and written stories set outside Indonesia. I was in Amsterdam on a fellowship and decided to pick up a copy of People from Bloomington from the KITLV library in Leiden. It was a strange way to reconnect with Budi Darma and realize that he, too, was a writer in transit. He wrote the book in 1979 when he was a PhD student at a university in the United States, just like I was when I was writing my novel, and he produced some of the Bloomington stories in Europe, en route to Indonesia.

Penguin releases translation of novel based on Batak culture

Apr 10, 2022 / Rejection: A Sumatran Odyssey
AWARD-WINNING writer, translator, researcher and cultural ambassador Jennifer Lindsay has translated into English Ashadi Siregar's epic family drama Rejection: A Sumatran Odyssey.The historical fiction takes readers into the jungles of North Sumatra during Indonesia's independence struggle. A gripping narrative, this family epic presents an intimate portrayal of a young man's sexual and political awakening during a time of rebellion in Sumatra, taking the reader on a journey through the mystical Batak world.
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