cover image Kitchen Curse: Stories

Kitchen Curse: Stories

Eka Kurniawan, trans. from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker et al. Verso, $18.95 trade paper (137p) ISBN 978-1-78663-715-4

Kurniawan’s deadpan, incisive collection (after the novel Beauty Is a Wound) pares out the gruesome consequences of acting on misconceptions. In “Making an Elephant Happy,” childhood innocence becomes deadly, while in “Peter Pan,” a revolutionary rejects his privilege to become a martyr. “Caronang” offers a new twist on the timeless tale of man’s misguided impulse to tame a wild beast—in this case, a canine creature with opposable thumbs that is native to Indonesia, stands bolt upright, and is cute as a “living doll” until it learns to shoot a gun. Each sardonic entry is made more alluring by the reliance on a mythic plot device—an amulet made of otter, a stone with a narrative point of view. The accumulation of bathroom scrawls in “Graffiti in the Toilet,” each more blindly ecstatic than the last, encapsulates Kurniawan’s interest in how the human drive to make one’s mark often paves over good intentions. Erupting with awareness and dark wit, this work puts Kurniawan in league with Hassan Blasim, Witold Gombrowicz, and Daniil Kharms. (Oct.)