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Intan Paramaditha’s novel wins PEN’s two prestigious grants

Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, January 30, 2019  /  04:43 pm
Intan Paramaditha’s novel wins PEN’s two prestigious grants

Making her mark: Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha has been awarded two prestigious grants from international writers’ association PEN, which will be used to translate and publish her adventure novel “Gentayangan: Pilih Sendiri Petualangan Sepatu Merahmu” (The Wandering: Choose Your Own Red Shoes Adventure). (Courtesy of Intan Paramaditha/-)

Celebrated Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha has been awarded two prestigious grants from international writers’ association PEN, which will be used to translate and publish her most recent book.

Intan’s 2017 adventure novel Gentayangan: Pilih Sendiri Petualangan Sepatu Merahmu (The Wandering: Choose Your Own Red Shoes Adventure) won the PEN Translates Award and Heim Translation Fund Grant from PEN America.

The Heim translation grant will cover the translation costs of the book’s publisher as well as ensuring that the project is finished on time.

Gentayangan will be translated into English by Stephen J. Epstein.

Riffing on the recently resurgent format of “choose-your-own-adventure”, Intan describes her book as a reflection of travel and displacement in the world that exams access, privilege and alienation experienced by people such as tourists, international students, migrant workers, diaspora communities and the exiled.

The reader is responsible for directing the fate and decisions of the protagonist, a woman traveling with cursed red shoes, and entertains the idea of the reader being the omnipresent being that oversees the consequences of the woman’s choices.

The novel’s settings take the reader to the dirty streets of New York City, Jakarta or Tijuana, to markets, graveyards, mosques, ships and borders.  

The protagonist rides airless taxis or trains that do not stop, with every decision only bringing forth the point that one lives as a gentayangan (wandering, haunting or just being between places).

Due to an interest in the format since childhood and always wanting to write a story in that style, it was only after years of traveling and living a mobile lifestyle that Intan began to piece together the links between the format and the idea of travel itself.

“When we talk about travel, we are always haunted by the question of how we got there, what adventure or misadventure we have chosen, and all the what-if questions: What if we had taken another path? Would life be better if I had gone somewhere else or stayed?” Intan told The Jakarta Post. “In this novel, you can go back to the first page and repeat, take different routes and you can eventually see different versions of yourself in parallel universes.”

Gentayangan will be published in the United Kingdom by Harvill Secker/Penguin Random House in 2020.

Harvill Secker also published Intan’s critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Apple and Knife, in the UK in December. It garnered critical acclaim when the English version was released, being shortlisted for The White Review Books of the Year 2018 and the 2018 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot.

It will also be featured at the London Book Fair, which will be held between March 12 and 14, where Intan will make her first appearance.

Apple and Knife is more of an anthology of several short stories she had published before in two collections.

She released the short story collections Sihir Perempuan (Black Magic Woman) in 2005 and Kumpulan Budak Setan (Devil’s Slaves Club) in 2010, with the latter co-written by fellow internationally acclaimed Indonesian novelists Ugoran Pasad and Eka Kurniawan.

Sihir Perempuan was shortlisted for the 2005 Khatulistiwa Literary Award, while the Indonesian version of Gentayangan was named Best Literary Work for Prose Fiction by TEMPO magazine in 2017. (ste)

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