cover image Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

Eka Kurniawan, trans. from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (214p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2564-9

Kurniawan (Beauty Is a Wound) tells the ribald, noir-inflected, and oddly epic story of a man’s quest to regain his sexual virility. Teenage Javanese roughneck Ajo Kawir loses the use of his “little bird” after witnessing the rape of a widow by two soldiers. He tries everything to revive it: prostitutes, rubbing it with chili pepper, even getting it stung by bees. He is only kept from chopping off the offending member with an axe by the intervention of his friend. But it becomes a matter of honor after a brilliant martial artist named Iteung, a member of the criminal syndicate known as the Empty Hand, beats him senseless in protection of her boss and he falls in love with her. Ajo Kawir’s work interferes with their romance: he’s an enforcer for the unsavory Uncle Bunny and is assigned to murder a famous killer known only as the Tiger. After being imprisoned for his crimes for a number of years, Ajo Kawir takes a job as a truck driver and becomes mentor to a younger man named Gaptooth Mono, who must face his own archenemy—and all the while Iteung dreams of killing the soldiers who forever deprived Ajo Kawir of his erection. This is an almost unbelievably fun and weird novel. (Aug.)