First of all I would like to thank Zoe at Comma Press for being so kind and sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Book of Jakarta: A City in Short Fiction edited by Maesy Ang and Teddy W. Kusuma centres on (official blurb): “A young woman takes a driverless taxi through the streets of Jakarta, only to discover that the destination she is hurtling towards is now entirely submerged… A group of elderly women visit a famous amusement park for one last ride, but things don’t go quite according to plan… The day before her wedding, a bride risks everything to meet her former lover at their favourite seafood restaurant on the other side of the tracks… Despite being the world’s fourth-largest nation – made up of over 17,000 islands – very little of Indonesian history and contemporary politics are known to outsiders. From feudal states and sultanates to a Cold War killing field and a now struggling, flawed democracy – the country’s political history, as well as its literature, defies easy explanation. Like Indonesia itself, the capital city Jakarta is a multiplicity; irreducible, unpredictable and full of surprises. Traversing the different neighbourhoods and districts, the stories gathered here attempt to capture the essence of contemporary Jakarta and its writing, as well as the ever-changing landscape of the fastest-sinking city in the world.”
The Book of Jakarta is a collection of short stories based on or involving the city of Jakarta. In total there are 10 stories within this collection and each one is completely different from the next. I’m not normally a lover of short stories collections however, I absolutely adored this collection.
The first story: B217AN was written by Ratri Ninditya and translated by Mikael Johani. First of all wow after reading this very short story I have so many questions especially about the end part of the story. While reading the story it literally felt like you were right there silently and invisibly watching and listening as the story unfolded and the two main characters interacted.
The second story: The Aroma of Shrimp Paste was written by Hanna Fransisca and translated by Khairani Barokka. Throughout the whole of this short story I couldn’t help but feel for the main character Madam Tjhang Chai Ha she went through so much just to obtain a passport. You can sense the desperation of each individual waiting in the passport government office.
The third story: The Problem was written by Sabda Armandio and translated by Rara Rizal. Once again a story that left me with so many questions. Which seems very topical for a story about politics and political protests! Some of my questions include: Why does one character remain unnamed to the reader? What was really going on with Yuli? And Who did she keep talking too? What about Gembok? Who was driving the red Jeep? And Why did it play such a key part in the story?
The fourth story: Buyan was written by Utiuts and translated by Zoë McLaughlin. My first thought with this story were environmental change vs development/technology. This story gave me the feeling that technology will never be able to outsmart Mother Nature/environmental change/climate change!
The fifth story: A Secret from Kramat Tunggak was written by Dewi Kharisma Michellia and translated by Shaffira Gayatri. The first thought that came to mind with this story is victims of poverty and so much more. This story shows the effects that poverty and hardship can have on some individuals and how they feel that they have no choice but to do things and in some cases commit acts to not only survive but also to protect the one thing they love and cherish the most.
The sixth story: Grown-Up Kids was written by Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie and translated by Annie Tucker. I honestly don’t know what to say when it comes to this story. There are so many emotions felt when reading this one.
The seventh story: Haji Syiah was written by Ben Sohib and translated by Paul Agusta. Once again so many questions. In so many aspects this story shows how you shouldn’t judge someone just because they are different to you whether that’s there background, way of life, etc it shouldn’t matter.
The eighth story: The Sun Sets in the North was written by Cyntha Hariadi and translated by Eliza Vitri Handayani. The worth of friendship plays such a significant part within this story and how different social classes and political events can make or break people and also shape them as well. This story shows that the Youth can be tragic victims of circumstances too.
The ninth story: All Theatre is False was written by Afrizal Malna and translated by Syarafina Vidyadhana. It seems that this is going to be another story that has left me with so many questions. Are the main characters Jijok and Frans yet again victims of circumstances or is it due to their own stubbornness and ways that they have ended up the way they have.
The tenth story: A Day in the Life of a Guy from Depok who Travels to Jakarta was written by Yusi Avianto Pareanom and translated by Daniel Owen. Another story in this collection where passports play such a significant part. This story gives the reader a glimpse into the life of an ordinary man who remains unnamed throughout the story other than being known as the guy from Depok.
This collection of short stories left me not only wanting to know more about each character within but also wanting to know and learn more about Jakarta and to also read more Indonesian Literature. The Book of Jakarta was such a well-written collection of short stories that left me wanting more. The translators have done such a brilliant job.
(Photo is my own please do not copy or take without permission first).