Book Stories


SESP junior Natasha Sondakh prepares to publish debut novel exploring Indonesian identity

Jan 14, 2021 / She Smells of Turmeric
In just four months, Natasha Sondakh (SESP ’22) wrote her debut novel, “She Smells of Turmeric,” while juggling classes and learning how to market her book. The fictional novel follows an Indonesian-American girl who moves to Indonesia after her father’s death. As she experiences Indonesian culture and meets new people, she soon realizes nothing is as perfect as it seems and finds herself in the process.

A Close Reading Of Eka Kurniawan’s Suspense-Building In ‘Man Tiger’

Jan 14, 2021 / Man Tiger
The closing lines of this 2016 Man Booker International Prize-nominated novel by Eka Kurniawan reads: “Marry my mother and she’ll be happy.” Anwar Sadat shook his head nervously. and his reply came out brokenly. “That’s impossible, you know I have a wife and daughters,” Something in his face said the proposition was absurd, making what he said next redundant. “Besides, I don’t love your mother.” That was when the tiger came out of Margio, white as swan. (pg, 172) The story of divining and possession, set in the 1950s post-Soekarno Indonesia, about how a young man murdered an old man who was entangled in an all-too-common extra-marital affair began with a simple yet, profound line of storytelling: “On the evening Margio killed Anwar Sadat, Kyai Jahro was blissfully busy with his fishpond.” (pg. 1) In the following paragraphs, I shall discuss Eka Kurniawan’s craft of opening and closing the story and how he built the plot and use the element of suspense.

Review: The Book of Jakarta

Jan 07, 2021 / The Book of Jakarta: A City in Short Fiction
What do you know about Jakarta, or Indonesia? If the answer is “not much” then you should definitely pick up this collection of short stories. And if the answer is “a lot, actually” well, you should read it too, you will probably relate or find some familiar elements. The Book of Jakarta is a collection of ten short stories put together by Maesy Ang and Teddy W. Kusuma, publishers and owners of an independent bookshop in Jakarta, Indonesia. The authors you will meet in the collection are Indonesian, or have lived in Jakarta at some point, or have other connections with the city.

Riot Roundup: The Best Books We Read October-December 2020

Jan 04, 2021 / Dial A for Aunties
DIAL A FOR AUNTIES BY JESSE Q. SUTANTO (BERKLEY, APRIL 27) Wrap a romcom with a crime novel, sprinkle in Weekend At Bernie’s, and you get this deliciously fun, big-hearted book. Told in past and present, we learn of lost love, hope for love found, and watch a bickering (with love) family try to dispose of a body to help one of their own during a huge wedding. It’s hilarious! No, seriously there are just the right amount of ridiculous situations to have you rooting for them to get away with “accidental murder” and hope to be adopted into this big Chinese-Indonesian family. I mean, they’re willing to help you bury a body. And run a successful wedding business while doing it. If you love romcoms (this is PERFECT for adaptation) do not miss this 2021 gem of a release.

2020: Translations from Southeast, South and West Asia

Jan 03, 2021 / The Wandering
The Wandering by Intan Paramaditha,  translated by Stephen J Epstein The story begins in Jakarta, a hubbub of street vendors, motorbikes, and calls to prayer from mosque loudspeakers. “Travelling is the most ancient desire”, writes Intan Paramaditha in her first novel, a choose-your-own-adventure story published this February as global mobility ground to a halt. The wandering narrator, addressed in the second person befitting the conventions of the form, travels along multiple routes to Berlin, New York, and even outer space as she faces ordeals that illustrate the privileges of going abroad and the limitations of individual choice.

Book Deals: Week of January 4, 2021 – Penguin Classics Visits Darma’s ‘Bloomington’

Jan 01, 2021 / Orang-Orang Bloomington
People from Bloomington by Indonesian author Budi Darma was acquired in a world English rights deal by Elda Rotor at Penguin Classics. Jayapriya Vasudevan and Helen Mangham at Jacaranda Literary brokered the agreement for the book, a collection of seven short stories, with Indonesian publisher Noura Books. Penguin described Darma as one of his country’s “most beloved and respected living authors.” The book follows a group of characters in Bloomington, Ind., where Darma lived for a period, and, the publisher said, “blurs the boundaries between Western and Eastern literature.” Tiffany Tsao is translating the title.

6 Must-Read Indonesian Novels, Stories, and Poems

Dec 31, 2020 / Apple and Knife Man Tiger Sergius Seeks Bacchus The Book of Jakarta: A City in Short Fiction The Majesties The Wandering
Indonesia, Asia’s largest archipelago, is one of the world’s most ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse countries. It is a place called home by every kind of human being. As soon, Indonesian novels, stories, and poems offer readers that same kind of diversity and excitement. The Indonesian novels, stories, and poems found here do not encompass the entire literary scope of Indonesia, but they do offer a few wonderful places to begin reading Indonesian books in translation. Here, you’ll find some of Indonesia’s best writers, poets, and translators.

Our best Filipino books of 2020

Dec 29, 2020 / Aku Ingin Jadi Peluru (Kumpulan Puisi)
Here, we asked a few critics, writers, and publishers to give us some of their best or favorite reads of 2020. — Don Jaucian KRISTINE ONG MUSLIM, writer “Balada ng Bala at iba pang mga tula” is a 200-page volume of poems by Wiji Thukul, an Indonesian labor organizer and a desaparecido of the US-backed Suharto regime. The poems, edited and translated into Filipino by Mark Laurence D. Garcia and Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III, were written and published in the span of at least a decade. No greasy conceits of hagiography soiled the editors’ introduction. Expect a thoughtful contextualization that situates the recurring themes in Thukul’s body of work in the Philippines, where the Duterte regime — in the guise of an anti-insurgency, anti-terrorism campaign — is arresting or killing dissenters. Expect a compelling dissection that shows how Thukul’s political struggles had shaped his art — and not the other way around.

Literary Postmodern Perspective in “Will Badrul Mustafa Never Die”?

Dec 17, 2020 / Will Badrul Mustafa Never Die? Verse from the Front
Badrul Mustafa is considered an anti-hero who claims to be loved by everyone in society. He strives to convince one and all of his remarkable abilities—truth-bearer, hero, unrequited lover, and miracle worker—but is constantly baffled by life’s rebuffs and the futility of his self-defeating efforts. But Badrul Mustafa is not just one person. Instead, he represents an amalgam of absurd and delusional hypocrites who connive to attain power and sow communal discord. This is the “front”, the battle the author fights against the “Badrul Mustafas of all time”. Heru Joni Putra who is the author of the different poems that are in the book decides to incorporate Badrul Mustafa as a character because he symbolises many people in society. I reckon that this book is subject to literary postmodern analysis.

World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2020

Dec 14, 2020 / Deviant Disciples
Literary translation’s 2020 story is one of abundance and adaptation. Like most books published this year, dozens of new translations were published during a global pandemic. Events quickly moved from bookstores to Zoom. Writers and translators adapted, participating in virtual book tours, online conversations, Facebook live readings, and even virtual literary festivals. We gathered online to celebrate these new English translations and receive the community and comfort we could find there.
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