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Norman Erikson Pasaribu Masters the Art of the Short Story in Their Collection ‘Happy Stories, Mostly’

Book Review / Interview

The award-winning poet discusses their new release.

Norman Erikson Pasaribu is an Indonesian poet whose work is both playful and intricate. Their first poetry book to be translated into English (by Tiffany Tsao, who also translated Happy Stories), Sergius Seeks Bacchus, won the pair a PEN Translates award. Pasaribu is also a translator and editor, and their writing highlights their intimate familiarity with language and how to mold it into art.

In Pasaribu’s new book of short stories, Happy Stories, Mostly, which was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize and had its U.S. release on June 6, their craft is on full display, making perfect use of brevity and detail to tell the stories of complicated characters all trying to find their own sense of happiness. In one story, a man who recently died joins the surprisingly politicized Department of Unanswered Prayers in the afterlife. In another, a pair of siblings in the future fail to connect after their father’s death. In a third, a grieving mother mourns the suicide of her gay son, whom she had rejected. The collection explores religion and faith, specifically Christianity in Indonesia; familial relationships; heartbreak; pop culture; and what it means to “queer a narrative.” The stories here are quick and enjoyable reads that also pack an emotional and intellectual punch.

Read the full article here.

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