October 2021 Book Club Report: Intan Paramaditha’s The Wandering

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 October 2021 Translated Literature Book Club Meeting

We were supposed to discuss Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha’s The Wandering in September, but I had to cancel our meeting at the last minute because of my poor health. I guess that gave us more time to explore different storylines and go on more than one adventure in the novel!

The Wandering was first published in Indonesian in 2017 and its Indonesian title Gentayangan means ‘wandering’, ‘haunting’, ‘in between’. Its English translation, which was translated by Stephen Epstein, was published last year and has received much positive reviews.

It’s the story about an Indonesian woman who makes a deal with the devil to own a pair of red shoes that will take her anywhere she wants.

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What’s really fascinating about The Wandering is that it contains at least 15 major storylines and each storyline unfolds depending on the reader’s decision at various points in the novel, whether to take this path or that, whether to go here or there. The choices are limited and already decided for us, but I could still feel the tension and trepidation whenever I had to decide the next step, knowing that my decision will lead me on a very different path.

What makes this decision-making so personal and palpable is the author’s creative and clever use of the first-person perspective – ‘you’. It creates a very personal experience for the reader and requires our active engagement, to imagine ourselves in the stories.

The Wandering reminded us of Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, which we previously read for our book club. However, while Flights dissects the topic of travel in a somewhat cerebral manner, The Wandering does it in a visceral way, such that there is a sense of regret, lamentation, that comes from being away from home, from disillusion with a Faustian bargain.

It also reminded us of another book we read for our book club as well – Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound, which is steeped in Indonesian mysticism and folklore that are also prominent in The Wandering.

While discussing about The Wandering, we did wander off talking about other things like the Indonesian writers at the Ubud Writers Festival, online Bahasa Indonesian classes, Thai language classes…and last of all, we decided to read Taiwanese writer Chang Yu-ko’s horror novel Whisper for the month of November! It’ll be our first translated horror read and I’m super excited!

Everyone is welcome to join our book club. We meet every last Saturday of the month, either online or in person, depending on the relevant restrictions. For more updates, do follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

*Harriett Press’s Translated Literature Book Club is a monthly book club that meets to discuss a translated book selected for the month. Everyone is welcome to join us!⁠ Find out more about our book club meetings by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!