Intan Paramaditha

(translated by Stephen J Epstein)


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.

Mara finds herself brainstorming an ad campaign for Free Maxi Pads, with a little help from the menstruation-eating hag of her childhood. Jamal falls in love with the rich and powerful Bambang, but it is the era of the smiling general and, if he’s not careful, he may find himself recruited to Bambang’s brutal cause.  Solihin would give anything to make dangdut singer Salimah his wife – anything at all.

In the globally connected and fast-developing Indonesia of Apple and Knife, taboos, inversions, sex and death all come together in a heady, intoxicating mix full of pointed critiques and bloody mutilations. Women carve a place for themselves in this world, finding ways to subvert norms or enacting brutalities on themselves and each other.




FORMAT: Paperback

LENGTH: 208 pp.

ISBN: 9781925704006





Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian writer now based in Sydney. She is the acclaimed author of the two short story collections, Sihir Perempuan (2005) and Kumpulan Budak Setan (2010, with Eka Kurniawan and Ugoran Prasad), from which the stories of Apple and Knife are drawn, as well as the novel Gentayangan (2017). She is a lecturer in film and media studies at Macquarie University.


“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


Stephen Epstein (translator).jpg

Associate Professor Stephen J Epstein is the Director of the Asian Languages and Cultures Programme at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and served as the 2013-14 President of the New Zealand Asian Studies Society. He has published widely on contemporary Korean society, literature and popular culture and translated numerous pieces of Korean and Indonesian fiction.


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