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:
- Budi Darma’s People from Bloomington, translated by Tiffany Tsao
- Read Tsao’s post in memory of Budi Darma, who died in August 2021
- Check out these other Indonesian writers mentioned in the episode: Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Umar Kayam, Chairil Anwar, Ajip Rosidi
- Want to hear more about the art of translation? Listen to these conversations with German-English translator Susan Bernofsky, Bible translator Robert Alter, Malagasy writer Naivo and his translator Alison Cherette, and Tibetan-English translator Tenzin Dickie
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