Book Stories


‘Well, That Was Unexpected’: A novel filled with charm, wit and growing pains

Oct 07, 2022 / Well, That Was Unexpected
In her new novel for young adults, Jesse Q. Sutanto again cooks up a humorous story that includes intrusive parents and overbearing but lovable relatives. One and a half years ago, Indonesian writer Jesse Q. Sutanto landed the literary surprise hit Dial A for Aunties. For the hilarious combination of romantic comedy and murder mystery, Jesse was awarded the United Kingdom’s Comedy Women in Print prize. At the same time, Netflix picked it up for a film adaptation. 

Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash review – masterful send up of 80s action flicks

Aug 03, 2022 / Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
Pulpy yet swooningly romantic, Edwin’s entertaining thriller has perhaps the coolest film title in recent years; it also won the Golden Leopard at last year’s Locarno film festival. Adapted from the popular novel by Eka Kurniawan – the first Indonesian writer to be nominated for the Booker prize – this is a bombastic time capsule of 1980s Indonesia that is all about the essence of manhood. Left impotent by a childhood trauma, Ajo (Marthino Lio) can’t get it up, but he can certainly raise his fists, earning a reputation as a daredevil who chases death just to prove his virility.

Singapore Shelf: ‘Ear prostitutes’, secrets in Clarissa Goenawan’s Watersong

Jul 23, 2022 / Watersong
When she was a busy marketing professional in her 20s, Clarissa Goenawan felt she had no time to read anything except manga. One day, a colleague lent her a novel. It was Norwegian Wood (1987) by Haruki Murakami. "I thought, never mind, I'll take it home and a couple of days later I'll return it to him and say I didn't have time to read it," says the Singaporean author, now 34. "What happened was I read the book and I couldn't stop."

IndoLit Club Sydney: Translation Forum

Jul 21, 2022 / Above the Day Below the Night Cigarette Girl Mirah of Banda Saman: A Novel The Rape of Sukreni The Turning Wheel Threads of Dignity
I am hopelessly behind with reviews and everything else, but the opportunity came up to attend a translation forum this morning so I jettisoned #SituationNormal… The IndoLit Club Sydney is an online book group which meets with Zoom, and (thanks to Twitter) I was able to attend their forum on translation. The session was moderated by Kestity Pringgoharjono from the IndoLit Club. (See their Facebook page). As one of the participants mentioned, the panel consisted of an older generation of translators, and this session was an opportunity to mentor younger people wanting to make a career in translating Indonesian.

Dian Sastrowardoyo, Putri Marino To Star In Netflix Indonesian Original Series ‘Gadis Kretek’

Jul 14, 2022 / Gadis Kretek
Netflix has revealed cast for upcoming Indonesian original series Gadis Kretek, including award-winning actresses Dian Sastrowardoyo and Putri Marino. Based on a novel of the same name by Ratih Kumala, the series is set against the backdrop of Indonesia’s tobacco industry, and delves into the country’s rich history through the story of an estranged son searching for a girl from his father’s past who can fulfill the cigarette mogul’s dying wish.

A life told in three parts

Jul 11, 2022 / Spaces: Reflections on a Journey The Turning Wheel Threads of Dignity
Indonesian history will be forever marked by the countless deaths following the overthrow of President Sukarno in 1965. The number of deaths is now estimated to be between two and three million. Those killed were not only those members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) falsely accused of instigating a plot to gain power, but people who had joined legal organisations such as trade unions or who were seen to be on the ‘left’. Many more were killed as a result of rumours or personal disputes. In the prevailing atmosphere, merely claiming a person to have a ‘leftist’ or ‘pro-communist’ orientation was sufficient to have a mob, often backed by the military, kill that unfortunate individual, sometimes in a most frightful and brutal manner.

Found in Translation: Mapping Budi Darma’s ‘People from Bloomington’

Jul 05, 2022 / People from Bloomington
The Tulip Tree apartment building in Bloomington, Indiana, sits on the edge of the Indiana University campus, 11 stories high with over 200 units. I recently drove past the structure, which curves inward around a wide expanse of grass. I had just been tent-camping in the nearby forest beside Lake Monroe with my son and his Boy Scout troop, where we orienteered, hiked, and spotted turtles, frogs, and deer in the woods. After days and nights spent beneath towering pines and the stars for a roof, the concrete-and-glass Tulip Tree Apartments looked otherworldly.

Kids Read: Asia

May 23, 2022 / The Adventures of Na Willa
The Adventures of Na Willa, by Indonesian author Reda Gaudiamo, translated by Ikhda Ayuning Maharsi Degoul & Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Indonesian artist Cecellia Hidayat, and published by The Emma Press, is a series of stories (sequential vignettes) about a young girl growing up in suburban Indonesia, based on the author’s own childhood. They are each a few pages, and are perfect for reading with a preschool-elementary aged child, or for an upper elementary child to read on their own. Na Willa is curious and has many adventures children around the world will relate to: flying a kite, arguing with a sibling, learning to read, friends moving away. Footnotes explaining some of the names and Indonesian words used are included, and are very helpful when discussing the stories with children. I’m glad the translator/publisher chose to keep the original words and explain them in order to help kids learn about Indonesian culture. The Adventures of Na Willa is a fun way to learn about Indonesia.

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.
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