By: Norman Erikson Pasaribu
Translated into English by: Tiffany Tsao
Playful, experimental, and charged, Happy Stories, Mostly (Cerita-cerita Bahagia, Hampir Seluruhnya) is a collection of ten stories that queer the norm. Inspired by Simone Weil’s concept of “decreation,” and often drawing on Batak and Christian cultural elements, the stories put queer characters in situations and plots conventionally filled by hetero characters.
In one story, a new staff member is introduced to their new workplace—a department of Heaven devoted to archiving unanswered prayers. In another, a woman’s attempt to vacation in Vietnam after her gay son commits suicide turns into a nightmarish failed escape. In “A How-To-Guide For A Young Poet Getting Over a Broken Heart,” the eponymous queer poet deals bitterly with not being considered attractive enough. In the speculative-historical “The Giant Man: The Real Story,” a young man finds himself haunted by the tale of a giant man living in colonial-era Sumatra.
A blend of science fiction, absurdism, and alternative-historical realism, Happy Stories, Mostly is a powerful puff of fresh air, aimed at destabilizing the heteronormative world and exposing its underlying rot.