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Articles tagged "Indonesian Literature"

From the Translator: On Clara Ng’s \“The Moon and the Magician in the Red Jacket\”

In Clara Ng’s story “The Moon and the Magician in the Red Jacket,” the main character Husin is a rather hapless fellow, but it was important for me that he retain his dignity in translation, as he does in the original text. The elements are all there for a figure of mockery—uncontrollable dandruff, a house that he can never seem to fortify against the rain, a scolding wife, disappointing children. Yet I believe it was Ng’s intent to paint a picture of a...

From the Translator: On \“A Tale of Redemption\”

Translating Mona Sylviana’s story collection, “A Tale of Redemption and Other Stories,” has been something of a change of pace for me. Indonesian literature is often steeped in the exotic cultures, mythologies, and languages of the many ethnic groups of Indonesia. Hence it can be difficult at times for the translator to convey this “Otherness” to a Western readership. Sylviana’s stories, on the other hand, with their mostly contemporary settings and...

Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia

In October of this year, Indonesia will make its appearance as the guest of honor (GOH) at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF)—the first country from Southeast Asia to be so honored. Because Frankfurt is the largest annual book publishing event in the world, it is, possibly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Indonesia to present to the world its books and authors. Nonetheless, in today’s world, however, where the primary international language of communication is English and, in...

The Wild Cherry Tree

Our house looked out upon the shore. But we could not see the shore from any of the open windows. The shore could still not be seen even when I stood up straight in our sandy front yard, the soles of my bare feet feeling like they had been invaded by fine hot needles under the searing midday sun. The shore was merely the thunder of the sea and the foghorn of a ship, even though I was perched on the tallest branch of the wild cherry tree that soared arrogantly in the corner of our yard. The...

Story

In the fading night sky there are points of light, countless in number, vast in distance—who knows their size, their age? Yet, at one time, people drew imaginary lines between those stars and imagined them as beings: a scorpion, crab, goat, fish, twins, the Virgin . . . And attached names: Aldebaran, Cassiopeia, Danu, Hamal, Orion, Southern Cross, the Plow . . . The silent twinkling lights may have enthralled them, but not enough. Eyes need shapes, ears crave names, the brain arranges...

The Crow

No one and nothing in this world can protect you from the revenge of a crow. Not even if you hide in your mother’s womb. You will die a day before your birthday. Like the nut of a kenari tree, you will fall and crack on a rock. Caaaaaaaaw! Just before the hundredth jump, Ihsan Gagak “The Crow” Riman began to see stars. His knee joints were aching and inflamed. His head was heavy. His body was leaning at a 31-degree angle. Everything before his eyes turned a reddish-black....

writing you

how to write you when the letters are reluctant to sound out voices i knew voices i memorized rush back into loneliness only stillness now even that soon moves away far to the edge of desolation suspicious of any poetry even to exchange a hello moreover words when spelled out can turn into a row of pain instantly in every space how to write you when the pages close themselves the paper lays the body face down covering it with a sheet that quivers from throbbing pens and cursors scattered...

The Moon and the Magician in the Red Jacket

“Abel saw vultures in the back garden as he was climbing out of the window of the house he had just robbed . . .”  A driving rain was pouring down outside, hammering the roof of the house and seeping through part of the outside wall. Every summer Husin would reinforce the cement so the seepage would not cause too much damage, but every rainy season he could only watch as the rain roundly mocked him. Completely defeated, he would stare blankly at the water droplets slowly...

A Tale of Redemption

The man turned. Coffee and cocoa leaves were piled up, all stuck together. Branches were rubbing against each other roughly in the wind. Samsu pushed the low door open, its hinges silent. He paused briefly. The quiet of the outside was shattered by the noise from the television on the wall. Almost everyone in the café was talking, commenting on the discussion taking place on the television. If it were not for this being the between-season after the dry, when the weather was so...

All for Hindia

Translator’s Note: The character Baart Rommeltje alludes to Pieter Brooshooft (1845–1921), a journalist and editor in chief of Dutch East Indies newspaper De Locomotief. The story portrays the 20 September 1906 Puputan. Puputan—“ending” or “finish”—was a Balinese ritualistic fight to the death, carried out by Bali’s kings and their families and  staffs, choosing to die rather than to be taken prisoner and be forced to leave their...

When

1 When the ever so polite earthquake Rocked our village I heard the singing and dancing In the village square Suddenly fall silent. Insects and other animals The grass, plants, and trees And even the words that were being spoken Sentences filled with anger that billowed like smoke Suddenly fell mute. All was still 2 Our small and stuffy room with its cracked wall A lantern flickering from lack of oil The bed with its creaky springs and withered pillows Where all was fatigue and...

Gendhis

I am Gendhis, the hooker who spat in Pak Lurah’s face last night. Who says I’m afraid of Pak Lurah? I was never afraid of him, not before he went on the haj pilgrimage and not after he came back. I’m not afraid of position or rank because I don’t see any of that. I also don’t see Pak Lurah’s face. Two months ago, Pak Lurah, the village head, said that after he came back from the haj pilgrimage he wouldn’t touch me again. Upon returning from the...

Snacks in the Fashion Pages

Right up till Friday afternoon the casting location was still not settled. The several small  meeting rooms in the Kuningan area were still too expensive for a small-scale casting that only involved twenty models, five to eight bookers and the assistants from the various agencies. Plus me, as the “big boss” of the operation, the one who would decide who could go onto the next stage of modeling for the Glora pearls advertisements. So roughly there were almost thirty people....

The Century Carver

Kopag dropped his sharp chiseling knife, almost slicing open his own leg—and all because he'd detected a strange smell coming from the direction of the door, an aroma of dry leaves and damp wood. Odd, where was it coming from, this smell that made him feel so agitated? It wafted closer. "Who's there?" "It's me, Srenggi." "Srenggi? Srenggi who?!" Kopag was trembling with trepidation now. The smell was coming closer and he was finding it hard to breathe. His hands...

Road to Heaven

When my mother died, her face changed. I was the first to notice. When other family members and friends came to pay their respects, what I saw in their eyes was doubt; none could believe that the deceased was my mother. Even my brother, who hadn't seen my mother alive for three years, when viewing her corpse, straightaway announced that the deceased was our aunt, the youngest girl in my mother's family. The doctors and nurses who had cared for Mother when she was in the hospital...

The Rooms Out Back

My husband and I always rise at 7:30 when the shadow of the cat crossing the tiled roof of our neighbor's house forms a silhouette on our bedroom curtain. Who can figure out why that cat, without any training, has made it his routine to cast his shadow on our curtains every morning but because that is what the cat does every morning, its silhouette has become for the two of us a kind of alarm. I said we rise at 7:30 but we actually wake up at 4:30—before our baby's first...

Cik Giok

Don't forget to send the ticket for Cik Giok so that she can come to Jakarta. Don't forget to buy something for Cik Giok to wear . . . It was the planning meeting for my wedding. Why was Papa so worried about Cik Giok? Why was she so important? It was I, their only child, who was getting married, after all! Even more surprising, whenever Papa said something, Mama, who almost never accepted his suggestions, said nothing. And Grandmother, the constant supporter of Mama's...

Maybe Not Yem

"Can you believe it? One of my friends threw her boss's baby into a washing machine, just before going back to her village," the woman beside me said in a flat voice. I turned my gaze to the darkness outside the car window. The woman was terrorizing me. Damn it all! A chill ran through me as I thought of what she had just told me. The air was stuffy. Our small van crawled along the road. The heat from the van's engine was enough to make frozen blood boil. As we traveled along...

The Kitchen

Ruth loved flour. Mother loved the kitchen. And I loved Ruth and Mother. I grew up at the large kitchen table, watching Ruth sift flour and mix various kinds of dough. I learned to walk while holding on to Mother's skirt as she chopped onions, boiled potatoes, and minced meat. My mother, a beautiful cheerful woman, always sang in the kitchen, often old songs by Frank Sinatra: Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars . . . On Ruth's lap, I was coddled on her oil-spotted...

Mother’s Letter

I write on the weary folds of my face telling my disappointment to the increasingly dry river which circles around the ribs of our city. like a vein allowing the blood to flow lazily to the corners of your body. each leaf falling and mist rising sings of my disappointment in the passing restless days. the ticking columns paint the passion of the grass and the anger of the silent stones. I write my letter, it has no address other than my longing. the ragged years enchain the journey...

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