Kitchen Curse

Review of Eka Kurniawan’s Kitchen Curse, translated by Annie Tucker, Benedict Anderson, Maggie Tiojakin, and Tiffany Tsao (Verso Fiction, 2019)

Review

A sentient rock tricked into a familial murder, a toilet wall re-imaged as a stage for revolution, and a lowly maid’s spicy Indonesian dish reworked for terror are just some of the mischievous and engrossing tales recounted in Eka Kurniawan’s Kitchen Curse. Translated from the original Indonesian by Annie Tucker, Ben Anderson and others, the collection includes sixteen stories with themes that run from the dark to the mordantly funny.

Some are overtly political and caustic to past and current regimes in Indonesia. Others are mythical and magical. All of them are bold and—as the first collection of short stories by Kurniawan to be translated into English—serve as a memorable introduction to contemporary Indonesian surrealism and Kurniawan’s savage wit.

Of the stories that have a magical twist, “Caronang” is the most haunting. A Javanese farmer finds a dog that walks upright and said to be of ancient origin, having gone extinct on the island long ago. This “Lupus erectus” proves to be more intelligent than a normal canine. The caronang creature befriends the toddler of the family, learns how to fill in coloring books, and even bathes itself, “shampooing its whole body, though with a clumsiness that tickled us.” Soon the caronang is…[click here to continue to read full text]

*Review of Eka Kurniawan’s Kitchen Curse originally published in Asian Review of Books by T. F. Rhoden; photo image credit of Indonesian street art via the talented Samantha Lou Howard and her IndonesiaDesignStudio.blog. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons license.

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Interpreter of Winds

Review of Fairoz Ahmad’s Interpreter of Winds (Ethos Books, 2019)

Review

A pious canine argues with a camel, a windy night lasts for years, and a Javanese keris blade is wielded to murder a village witch in Fairoz Ahmad’s enchanting short story collection Interpreter of Winds. A quick and charming read, this book includes four magical tales across Islamic communities in the Indonesian and Malay world. Some take place in a stylized colonial past and some in the contemporary world, where current struggles crash against the fantastical.

The main story with the same title of the collection follows the quest of a talking dog, whose master is unconscious of the adventure his canine pet is about to have. The dog wants to be inducted into the Islamic faith as a true Muslim like his master and sets out on journey after meeting a cantankerousness camel named Ghati on the roads. The dog soon endears himself to Ghati as they go in search of the winds of all four points. Upon meeting one of the fabled winds, the wind requests an “appropriate gift” to assist the faithful canine in his search. Another tale is then woven within the first as the dog responds, “The only gift I could offer to you is the gift of stories.”

This becomes… [click here to continue to read full text]

*Review of Fairoz Ahmad’s Interpreter of Winds originally published in Asian Review of Books by T. F. Rhoden; photo image credit of for this re-post is via wallup.net. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons license.

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