An Indonesian Poet Uses Queer Catholic Saints to Create an Alternative Gospel

All Things Books / Interview

About Sergius Seeks Bacchus,
Written by J.R. Ramakrishnan, and was originally published in Electric Literature,
Mar 14, 2019

Norman Erikson Pasaribu on being a multiple outsider and searching for liberation in “Sergius Seeks Bacchus”.

Norman Erikson Pasaribu was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia but his roots lie in the ethnic Christian Batak community of Sumatra; his family represents the many strands of internal immigration from the country’s regions to its capital.

Though he writes in Indonesian, Pasaribu’s poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus (translated by Tiffany Tsao) carries the inflections, songs, and stories of diaspora. His works offer the joys and isolations of queer life in a conservative landscape, a minority existence (less visible in the Javanese-dominated mainstream), and the influences of Christianity.

Pasaribu and Tsao won the English PEN Translates Award in 2018 for the collection. Pasaribu has also published a book of short stories and received the Young Author Award from the Southeast Asia Literary Council in 2017.

I spoke to Norman Erikson Pasaribu about being a multiple outsider, Batak culture, LGBTQ+ life in Indonesia, and translating gender pronouns.

Read the full article here.