Translated by Stephen J. Epstein
The most ingenious and unusual novel you will read all year, where you choose your own story.
You’ve grown roots, you’re gathering moss. You’re desperate to escape your boring life teaching English in Jakarta, to go out and see the world. So you make a Faustian pact with a devil, who gives you a gift, and a warning. A pair of red shoes to take you wherever you want to go.
You’re forever wandering, everywhere and nowhere, but where is your home?
And where will you choose to go?
To New York, to follow your dreams?
To Berlin or Amsterdam? Lima or Tijuana? Or onto a train that will never stop?
The choices you make about which pages to turn to may mean you’ll become a tourist or an undocumented migrant, a mother or a murderer, and you will meet many travellers with their own stories to tell. As your paths cross and intertwine, you’ll soon realise that no story is ever new.
The Wandering is a novel about the highs and lows of global nomadism, the politics and privileges of travel and desire, and the freedoms and limitations of the choices we make, by one of Asia’s most exciting writers. It’s a reminder that borders are real, and a playful experiment that turns the traditional adventure story on its head.
Intan Paramaditha is the author of the short story collection Apple and Knife and the novel The Wandering, which was awarded the Tempo Best Literary Fiction, PEN Translates Award from English PEN, and PEN/ Heim Translation Fund Grant from PEN America. Both books were translated from the Indonesian by Stephen J. Epstein. Intan is the editor of Deviant Disciples, part of the Translating Feminisms series of Tilted Axis Press. She holds a PhD from New York University and currently teaches media and film studies at Macquarie University.
In an ingenious meeting of form and function, The Wandering uses the classic structure of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story to interrogate notions of travel, social inequality, free will, and how we build our lives. Beginning with a deal with the Devil – who offers the narrator a pair of red shoes that will allow her to fulfil a long-held desire to travel – the narrative transports the reader around the world: from Jakarta to Amsterdam to Tijuana. The novel evokes these settings with colour and life, but also reveals the sinister undercurrents of a cosmopolitan society.
Woven into the narrative are reinterpretations of folk tales and other stories, making the journey – or, indeed, journeys – through the novel a rich, dizzying experience. While The Wandering is unabashedly polemical at times, it always remains engaging and exhilarating, and Intan Paramaditha is to be applauded for realising the soaring ambition of this work.
‘A cleverly crafted tale about the illusion of free will, and the stakes and pressures that accompany the choices influenced by one’s identity in the world.’ Cher Tan, The Saturday Paper
‘An ingenious choose-your-own-adventure challenge… Who can travel, and on what conditions, is one of the primary human rights questions of our era, and The Wandering skilfully takes it on.’ Lauren Elkin, The Guardian
‘The Wandering is a book about crossing borders, geographically but also those of gender, society, and fictionality.’ Jacqueline Leung, Asian Review of Books