Indiana Absurd

Tiffany Tsao on translating a beguiling Indonesian short-story collection

Detail from Tom Gauld's cover of <em>People from Bloomington</em> by Budi Darma (Penguin Classics)
Detail from Tom Gauld's cover of People from Bloomington by Budi Darma (Penguin Classics)

Smarty Pants will be back in June with all new interviews. Until then, enjoy some of our favorite episodes from the past eight years.

The late Budi Darma, one of Indonesia’s most beloved writers, spent a formative chapter of his life far from home, studying at Indiana University in the 1970s. He wrote a series of strikingly lonely short stories that would go on to form the collection People from Bloomington, first published in Indonesian in 1980. A man befriends his estranged father only to control him and ends up controlled himself. Someone steals his dead roommate’s poetry and enters it into a competition. Another character desperately tries to make contact with the old man across the street who may or may not be trying to shoot people from his attic room. With this absurd but oddly real little collection—and with his next novel, Olenka, also Indiana-inspired—Darma ascended into the pantheon of Indonesian literature, winning numerous awards, including the presidential medal of honor. Budi Darma may be barely known in the United States, but Tiffany Tsao—who has recently translated People from Bloomington for Penguin Classics—hopes that an English-language audience is ready to embrace this unparalleled Indonesian artist.

Go beyond the episode:

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek and sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

SubscribeiTunes/Apple • Amazon • Google • Acast • Pandora • RSS Feed

Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)

Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up