Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
by Eka Kurniawan
Translated from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker
Vivid and bawdy, here is the new novel by the Indonesian superstar Eka Kurniawan (Beauty is a Wound). Told in short, cinematic bursts, Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is gloriously pulpy. Ajo Kawir, a lower-class Javanese teenage boy excited about sex, likes to spy on fellow villagers in flagrante, but when he witnesses a savage rape, he is deeply traumatized and becomes impotent. His efforts to get his virility back all fail, and Ajo Kawir turns to fighting as a way to vent his frustrations. He is hired to kill a thug named The Tiger, but instead Ajo Kawir falls in love with Iteung, a gorgeous female bodyguard who works for the local mafia. Alas, the course of true love never did run smooth…. Fast-forward a decade. Now a truck driver, Ajo Kawir has reached a new equanimity, thinking that his penis may be trying to teach him a lesson: he even consults it in many situations as if it were his guru—and love may triumph yet.
Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash shows Eka Kurniawan in a gritty, comic, pungent mode that fans of Quentin Tarantino will appreciate. But even with its liberal peppering of fights, high-speed car chases, and ladies heaving with desire, the novel continues to explore Kurniawan’s familiar themes of the perils of love and of the struggles of women in a violent and corrupt male world.