Apple and Knife (Intan Paramaditha, trans by Stephen J Epstein, Brow Books)
The universe within which Apple and Knife unfolds is both mythological and everyday—from office cubicles to rat-infested underground cities, sometimes in the same breath. Sydney-based Indonesian horror writer Intan Paramaditha’s English-language debut is a gory, subversive ride of 13 mostly bite-sized short stories, from twisted variations of classic fairytales (including a spin on Snow White, in which a woman hires men to rape her) to allegory-shrouded fables, all focused on the theme of woman as disruptor. Paramaditha dissects everything from abortions to periods to the politics of desire through a surrealist lens, and translator Stephen J Epstein has done wonderful work bringing her disturbing visions to life with unnerving detail. ‘Kuchuk Hanem’ is a standout, serving as a commentary on Western fetishisation of Asian culture and women (‘an Oriental woman is but a machine,’ the French male character ruminates), while the disarming simplicity of ‘The Porcelain Doll’ reveals the destructive nature of forced female docility. Not all the stories are as successful, with some too mired in metaphor, but overall this is a unique, provocative collection that will have Western audiences reconsidering and recalibrating feminism as we know it. Apple and Knife will appeal to fans of classic horror and modern feminist literature alike.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen is a Melbourne-based writer, bookseller and the marketing and communications manager of the Feminist Writers Festival