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Short stories set in Jakarta

11th December 2020

The Book of Jakarta – edited by Maesy Ang and Teddy W Kusuma, a collection of short stories set in Jakarta.

Maesy Ang and Teddy W Kusuma are independent publishers who own a bookshop in a traditional market in Jakarta. They champion titles from independent Indonesian publishers and curated works in English. In its first six years, the bookshop has hosted over 300 events, from writing classes and magazine workshops, to book discussions and readings. Its publishing arm, POST Press, has released a handful of titles ranging from novellas to children’s literature.

The Book of Jakarta is a collection of ten short stories by young Indonesian writers, all translated – by different people – into English. As well as the stories, the books also gives us profiles of the 10 authors and the 10 translators. They provide us with a very interesting and thought-provoking collection. Jakarta (I had not realised) is a city sinking into the sea as a result of global warming. One story – set a few years in the future – describes a passenger in a driverless cab being driven past a barrier and toward the incoming sea because the SatNav hadn’t updated to the latest flood information. Another describes the growing up school relationship between a middle class shop owner’s daughter and the daughter of a much wealthier family. When the ‘troubles’ surrounding the potential overthrow of President Sukarno erupted on the streets of Jakarta, the wealthy family fled to the States without the daughters saying good bye to each other.

Yet another describes activists on the streets during the same ‘troubles’. And one covers a couple of days in the life of two street people who believe they are actors – and who play to their audience. And one more takes us through the city on a motor bike with a boy and a girl heading to a subterranean den of prostitution and transsexual culture. A final story is about old and poor couples, living in an apartment block unable to pay their bills, and who plan to exit this world.

The collection of stories brings to the fore some sides of Jakarta that many Western tourists or business people would not normally see.

The Book of Jakarta is well worth reading.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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