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Happy Stories, Mostly

144 pages
Paperback, 21 x 14.8 cm
Published March 2022
ISBN 9781925818949

Happy Stories, Mostly

Norman Erikson Pasaribu

Translated by Tiffany Tsao

Winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize

The first book of fiction by young queer Indonesian writer Norman Erikson Pasaribu, author of the acclaimed poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus.

Happy Stories, Mostly is a playful, charged and tender collection of twelve stories – a blend of speculative fiction and dark absurdism, often drawing on Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s Batak and Christian cultures. Pasaribu’s stories ask what it means to be almost happy – almost to find joy, almost to be accepted, but never quite grasp one’s desire. Joy and contentment shimmer on the horizon, just out of reach.

In one story, an employee is introduced to their new workplace – a department of Heaven devoted to archiving unanswered prayers. In another, a woman on holiday in Vietnam attempts to find solace following the suicide of her son. In a third, a young man befriends a university classmate obsessed with verifying the existence of a mythical hundred-foot-tall man.

Throughout the collection, queerness is a fact of life from which tragicomic events spring, amidst the forces that keep people from those whom they yearn for most, and the miraculous, melancholy ability to survive such loneliness. In the words of one of the stories’ narrators, ‘I work in the dark. Like mushrooms. I don’t need light to thrive.’

WINNER: Republic of Consciousness Prize 2022
SHORTLISTED: Barrios Book in Translation Prize 2023
FINALIST: Cercador Prize for Literature in Translation 2023
LONGLISTED: International Booker Prize 2022
LONGLISTED: National Translation Award in Prose 2023

Pasaribu is one of the most important Indonesian writers today.
Scarano D’Antonio, Litro Magazine

Happy Stories, Mostly…navigates queer suffering with a deep supply of tenderness and humour – and with empathy for all its characters. Especially impressive is the range and force of Pasaribu’s imagination.
Alexander Wells, Exberliner Magazine

A remarkable collection of speculative and absurdist fiction…sure to get people talking.
Publisher’s Weekly

[The] bitterly arch Happy Stories, Mostly works in the margins, sketching the queer experience against a backdrop of religious and generational obstinance. Cutting failed attempts at happiness with wicked humor and the occasional sci-fi flourish, these stories relish contradiction.
Judges’ comments, Cercador Prize

Rendering characters with refreshing nuance and raw honesty, Pasaribu’s is a promising new voice. [Happy Stories, Mostly is] a beautiful collection that refuses to shy away from the often complex and difficult queer experience.
Kirkus Reviews

A perfect mix of surreal micro-fiction and thought-provoking narratives, Happy Stories, Mostly will stick with you for a long time.

Tsao’s affinity for Pasaribu’s personality, literary tone, and rhythm beautifully illuminates Pasaribu’s ingenuity as an author…[whose] LGBTQ maturity and authorial voice are clearly reflected in this exquisite work.
Asia Media

In this absurdist, sci-fi, short-story collection…queerness is at once the anchor and a gateway to so much more. Tiffany Tsao’s masterful translation, evident in how the pulsing language soars off the page, is a rhythmical yet tender pastiche of twelve scenarios wherein happiness is just out of reach. References to mysticism, popular culture, Batak folklore, queer culture, and Christianity enrich the prose, catalyzing the emergence of an inventive tapestry of hope deferred. At times somber, at times emotionally charged, Happy Stories, Mostly is a collection that leaves one with a tighter grasp of the human condition each time it is read.
National Translation Award in Prose, judges’ citation

About the Author & Translator

Norman Erikson Pasaribu

Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s debut poetry collection Sergius Seeks Bacchus won the 2015 Jakarta Arts Council Poetry Competition, was shortlisted for the 2016 Khatulistiwa Literary Award for Poetry and named by Tempo as one of the best poetry collections of that year. Their short story collection Happy Stories, Mostly won the 2022 Republic of Consciousness Prize and was longlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize.

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Tiffany Tsao

Tiffany Tsao is a novelist, translator and critic. Her translation of Sergius Seeks Bacchus was awarded a PEN Presents prize and a PEN Translates grant, and shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Translation Prize. She lives in Sydney.

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