Apple and Knife
translated by Stephen J. Epstein
First published in Australia, March 2018, by Brow Books
The book will be published in the U.K./ Commonwealth in December, 2018 by Harvill Secker
Apple and Knife is a short story collection by Intan Paramaditha translated by Stephen J. Epstein. It was first published in Australia (March 2018) by Brow Books, the book publishing imprint of the literary magazine The Lifted Brow. Apple and Knife consists of eleven stories that were published in Indonesia between 2005-2010 and one unpublished story. The stories are drawn from Sihir Perempuan (KataKita 2005/ Gramedia Pustaka Utama 2017), a collection of short stories shortlisted for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award, and Kumpulan Budak Setan (Gramedia Pustaka Utama 2010), a horror anthology co-written with Eka Kurniawan and Ugoran Prasad.
Publication of this book was made possible with assistance from the LitRI Translation Funding Program of the National Book Committee and Ministry of Education and Culture, the Republic of Indonesia.
Apple and Knife was launched in New Zealand (New Zealand Festival, Writers and Readers, March 10, 2018) and Australia (Sydney, Better Read Than Dead, March 23, 2018; University of Melbourne, May 11, 2018).
Apple and Knife will be published in the U.K. and Commonwealth countries on December 6, 2018 by Harvill Secker (Vintage/ Penguin Random House).
For more information about the book, please visit Brow Books/ The Lifted Brow website.
For inquiries on publication in other countries and foreign rights, please contact Kelly Falconer, Asia Literary Agency: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspired by horror fiction, myths and fairy tales, Apple and Knife is an unsettling ride that swerves into the supernatural to explore the dangers and power of occupying a female body in today’s world.
These short fictions set in the Indonesian everyday—in corporate boardrooms, in shanty towns, on dangdut stages—reveal a soupy otherworld stewing just beneath the surface. Sometimes wacky and always engrossing, this is subversive feminist horror at its best, where men and women alike are arbiters of fear, and where revenge is sometimes sweetest when delivered from the grave.
“Intan Paramaditha, who mixes fairy tales and gothic ghost stories with feminist and political issues, shakes up her readers, showing that her fiction is not beholden to a single interpretation. Her short stories reveal that the most terrifying thing in life is not one of the supernatural ghosts that populate her work, but human prejudice. As far as I’m concerned, only writers of genius are able to convey a layered and nuanced world, and Intan is one of them.”
Eka Kurniawan, internationally acclaimed author of Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger, Man Booker International Prize 2016 finalist
“In Apple and Knife, Intan Paramaditha has turned the fairytale on its head. Instead of helpless maidens, these fables are bursting with fierce and fabulous females, determined to exact justice in an unjust world. As the enigmatic title suggests, the writing is juicy and incisive. Every story is a gem and, as with all good fairytales, there are important lessons to be learned.”
Melanie Cheng, author of Australia Day, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award
“Deliciously dark and expertly disturbing, Intan Paramaditha’s compelling Apple and Knife will haunt you. Her weird, original stories reveal the darkness behind old tales and the shadows lurking at the edges of modern life.”
Ryan O’Neill, author of The Weight of a Human Heart and Their Brilliant Careers, winner of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction
“Abject and visceral, the stories in Apple and Knife are incise, humorous and vividly realised. Intan Paramaditha transgresses narrative conventions, bringing the villain into intimate proximity. Her tropes are marvellously bound, ranging from allegory, dystopian realism to erotic fantasy. Luminous and dangerously entertaining.”
Michelle Cahill, author of Letter to Pessoa and winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for New Writing
“Paramaditha’s stories are shockingly bold and macabrely funny, powerfully defamiliarising the cultural lore of patriarchy. What makes them special is their lack of interest in representing women as victims – here, the taboo of feminist anger is flagrantly and entertainingly broken.”
The Saturday Paper
“Intan Paramaditha’s Apple and Knife, translated from Indonesian for the first time by Stephen J. Epstein, delivers a short sharp suite of tales. It would be tempting to describe the volume as feminist horror, though undercurrents of violence and misogyny, myth and madness don’t stop it smouldering with black comedy and flickering into moments of unexpected victory. The author throws us into the cauldron of contemporary Indonesia through an eclectic cast of characters – we encounter everyone from musicians to corporate high-flyers to witches. In Blood, a copywriter, Mara, daydreams about the fearsome memory of her first period while brainstorming ideas to sell sanitary pads. Other stories might retell a dark version of Cinderella from the viewpoint of an aged stepsister, swell with a dangdut performer’s insatiable revenge, or mingle mistresses of pleasure with Grand Guignol.”
Cameron Woodhead, The Sydney Morning Herald
“A philandering businessman is brought undone in his search for a mythical goddess. A young researcher encounters a “sorceress aligned with the devil” who bottles people’s screams. A woman, living alone with her overbearing father, discovers a mysterious world through a red door. Fans of recent Man Booker International Prize nominee Eka Kurniawan will find much to enjoy in Paramaditha’s tales, as will Angela Carter acolytes.”
Dominic Amarena, The Australian
“Apple and Knife challenges contemporary national ideas about womanhood. All the stories in this book speak of distinctive aspects of women’s lives, like virginity, menstruation, abortion and marriage, and peel off the myths surrounding them. At a glance, the women in the stories — be they a mother, a daughter, a sister, a blue-collar worker, a white-collar worker or even a fiction writer — could be seen as disobedient. In an interview with Whiteboard Journal, Paramaditha admits she wants to reclaim the word bandel, or “disobedient”. Her idea of disobedience, however, is not a conventional gesture, like smoking or having a tattoo, but the inclination to break through, to cross borders, to resist.”
Norman Erikson Pasaribu, Mekong Review
“Apple and Knife is an engrossing collection of short stories by Intan Paramaditha, translated into English from Indonesian for the first time by Stephen J. Epstein. I found myself so absorbed in the tales that I repeatedly lost track of time while reading. Fairytales, mythology, bits of horror and fantasy, moralistic vengeance, infidelity, and even witchcraft are all thrown together with a feminist bent to deliver the chapters in this small volume.”
Suzanne Steinbruckner, Readings
“In Apple and Knife, Indonesian women fight for their rightful place in a patriarchal society. Taboos such as sex, death and violence meet incisive critique. Norms are subverted and at times, we are not sure who is the predator and who is the prey. Australian readers will have the opportunity to understand a country that we are so geographically close to, yet we only hear about in news reports that are curated by a predominantly white media culture.”
Shirley Le, SBS
“The following twelve stories, though likewise imbued with recognisable tropes drawn from folktale, myth, gothic, and horror fiction, are far less safe in approach or content, but equally concerned with how perpetually unjust the world can be, how ghosts will insist on haunting us, and how powerful the desire is to circumvent the roles that society has enforced upon women in particular.”
Lisa Bennett, Australian Book Review
“This unearthly and yet incredibly grounded collection of short stories are punctuated by the often violent victories of women. But victory is perhaps too positive a word. It’s not success but rather the ability to prevail, to seek vengeance, to rebel. They carry in them a nightmare borne of reality, stories of women abused, degraded, discarded, but also, in many cases, made powerful.”
Brooke Boland, Arts Hub
“The stories in Apple and Knife are raw, fun, excessive, and told with a wink, but they are underlaid with an unsettling awareness of the common fate of “disobedient women.”
Emily Bitto, The Monthly