Works (Originally in English)

A collection of works originally published in English.

May 23, 2022

Xu Xi on Living the Transnational Literary Life

by Xu Xi
“Life really isn’t stranger than fiction, but you have to keep reading, and rereading, to know that.” A Clean, Well-Lighted Place He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted café was a very different thing. They generally were clean, and lighted, though not necessarily well, the places I occupied in exchange for a salary during the past forty-eight years of my life. Like Hemingway’s old man, I could stay for as long as those responsible for keeping the lights on would let me. We don’t know if the old man, whom one waiter believes has money, ever earned a salary. We know little for certain about the old man, except that he is old and drunk and lonely. I, on the other hand, was employed at numerous businesses or multinational corporations, primarily in Hong Kong or New York but also in other cities, for the first twenty-four years, and for the latter twenty-four as a teacher of creative writing at universities or colleges around the world. I was seldom lonely or drunk in those clean places, whether well or badly lighted, because familiar strangers usually surrounded me. But such clean work spaces will become increasingly less accessible to me now that I am older, although not yet quite as old as the old man. This excerpt from The Work Book, a memoir in progress by Xu Xi, appears in the latest issue of The New England Review.
Apr 26, 2021

My Broken English Isn’t an Excuse for Your Disrespect

by Jesse Q. Sutanto
I have a confession to make: I prefer writing in present tense because I don’t really know my tenses. I did learn English when I moved to Singapore at the age of 7, but since I moved back to Indonesia seven years ago, I feel my grasp of the language slipping. Plus, the other two languages that I speak (very badly, I might add), Indonesian and Mandarin, don’t have tenses. So I find myself always speaking in present tense, which gets a bit confusing…and embarrassing.
Mar 26, 2021

My Mother’s Pain

by Cynthia Dewi Oka
In my Chinese Indonesian family, massage has been the sole consistent method to work through pain, to recover our sense of choice. My massage training began when I was 4 years old. On Sundays after church, my father would lie belly-down, head hanging off the side of the bed, while my mother guided me, step by step, up and down his back. The first few times, her arm hovered beside me as a guardrail in case I slipped. Beneath the human skin are many valleys, mounds, crevasses, and knobs. Balance and concentration are required to read this landscape of aches. Because I was small, I needed to use my full body weight to apply pressure. When my father groaned from the pain, my mother instructed me to press down with the heel of my foot until I could feel the hard spot crack inside him.
Feb 11, 2021

Grieving in the Time of Pandemic: Watching My Ailing Mom from Overseas

by Tita Alissa Bach
Watching her mom’s condition deteriorates through video calls from overseas, she is weighed by the heaviness and helplessness of grief in the time of pandemic.
Aug 27, 2020

Hurt and Words: On Language and Pain in Public

by Khairani Barokka
This blog post is part of issue 125 of Feminist Review, which explores theories of the archive within feminist, queer, crip, decolonial, and diasporic studies. The issue, which brings academics, artists, and archivists into conversation with each other, launched in July 2020. Blog posts in this series can be found here. While writing this piece, I had a flare up, or a relapse, of extreme pain (in fact, two relapses); words that inadequately describe what is more akin to a bomb exploding inside of you. And I thought: My god—I would be so enraged if someone told me not to describe this pain as the searingness it is, the stabbing knives, for hours on end, days. In previous years, for months. Brutality that fragments all sense of space, time, speech and even self.
May 30, 2020

Books That Changed Me: Intan Paramaditha

by Intan Paramaditha
Intan Paramaditha is the author of Apple and Knife, a collection of dark stories about disobedient women. Her first novel, The Wandering, won a PEN Translates Award and is published by Harvill Secker.
Mar 02, 2020

On the Complicated Questions Around Writing About Travel

by Intan Paramaditha
"Travel was and will always be about exclusion." Jakarta, 1994: I wanted to write a story about magic slippers that would take me anywhere. I ended up writing a novel about demonic red shoes as an adult, with more complex reasons than fulfilling my simple wish to go to Singapore, but there were times when travel was an unattainable obsession. I thought of Singapore because my imagination as a Third-World 90s teen did not stretch far enough. Japan was too costly, Cambodia was unthinkable, and America only existed on TV. Singapore was the place where my wealthy friends would go shopping, although they also visited other countries. In one girl’s house, I saw a family photo in Dutch costume taken in Volendam, and in another girl’s mansion, photos of family vacation to Disneyland California were hung on the wall. Our friendship lasted long, despite being occasionally haunted by the not-so-ghostly presence of different class. My parents lived in Jakarta as common people, raising two kids who would be common people, doing whatever common people do.
Jan 18, 2020

Letter in a used milk can

by Angelina Enny
Hello, When you receive this letter, which I stored in a used milk can, please hand it to the one it is intended for, my mother. Of course, I know I shouldn’t really throw used milk cans into the ocean. Maybe sometime later, you can come by my house – I wrote the address on the back of the can – so you can tell me that you handed the letter to my mother, and that you disposed of the can in the proper place, because according to Bu Salimah, my teacher, waste tins will pollute the ocean and make fish sick. Please forgive me, but I so want to talk to my mother and I don’t know how else to send her this letter. Okay, you can have a look at it, for I am pretty certain that – in the end – you will be the one handing it to my mother.
Dec 05, 2019

Trials of fiction: We lose the battle again

by Okky Madasari
A half century after the first defeat of the imagination of a short story in court, leading to the imprisonment of leading literature critic HB Jassin, we have lost a second battle against irrationality, arrogance and backwardness. Again we are witnessing the curbing of creativity that should otherwise flourish and bring this nation forward into the realm of reason and progress. Back in 1968, Jassin, then-chief editor of Sastra (Literature) magazine, was jailed for blasphemy as he had published a story which had personalized God and Prophet Muhammad, a taboo in Islam. Titled Langit Makin Mendung (The Darkening Sky), it was written by Kipandjikusmin, a pen name whose real identity Jassin refused to disclose.
May 22, 2019

I Left Indonesia to Pursue a Life without Fear

by Tita Alissa Bach
I was still in high school when the May 1998 riots, which targeted Chinese Indonesians and their properties, broke out just outside of Catholic high school (Bunda Hati Kudus). I was among the lucky ones who could go home right before the riots went out of control. But as a Chinese Catholic, I still remember what I experienced that day and the following weeks as if it was just last week.