A sentient rock tricked into a familial murder, a toilet wall reimaged 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.

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.

Relatively little had been written about Indonesia during World War II and the conflict between the Dutch and Japanese in the Pacific. In her recent memoir, All Ships Follow Me, Mieke Eerkens starts with the complexity of her father’s upbringing in colonial Indonesia. The son of a Dutch family that had lived in what was then called the Dutch East Indies for three generations, Eerkens’ father spent his first ten years living a life of privilege in Java. 

Performing the Arts of Indonesia: Malay Identity and Politics in the Music, Dance and Theatre of the Riau Islands, Margaret J Kartomi (ed) (NIAS press, July 2019)
Performing the Arts of Indonesia: Malay Identity and Politics in the Music, Dance and Theatre of the Riau Islands, Margaret J Kartomi (ed) (NIAS press, July 2019)

A fascinating and innovative study of the Malay performing arts of Kepri, Performing the Arts of Indonesia is the first of its kind. The volume, written by fifteen contributors, adds greatly to our knowledge of the cultures of a region previously receiving little attention and brings to light previously unknown material.

Like millions of Indonesian female workers abroad, Mega Vristian, the author of “The Jade Bracelet”, works as a live-in maid, performing domestic and care work. Their labor is indispensable in the global/regional labor market, which is in need of cheap, young female workers. At work, they face various forms of exploitation. It is this experience of inhuman working conditions that encourages some of them to take up a pen to tell and share their stories—sometimes in the form of a short story like this one. 

Commentaries on Islam in Indonesia—especially those attached to major political events such as the recent presidential election—often deal in simplistic binary terms: a uniform mass of apparently ascendant “conservative Muslims” is ranged against similarly uniform blocks of embattled urban liberals or rural traditionalists.