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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