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Sergius Seeks Bacchus

2021 - Shortlisted


In this debut work, Pasaribu claims his place as an exciting new voice in Indonesian literature, one that is tender, tragicomic and irreverently imaginative as it draws readers into the multi-minoritised experiences of the author’s queer community and Christian Bataknese family. Intense moments of love, happiness, desire and community with people, nature or ideas are placed in almost casual conversation with equally intense experiences of confusion, persecution, rejection and loss. 

With compassion and humour, Pasaribu’s poems make present and visible the diverse historical, cultural and lived complexities that undergird Indonesia’s dominant religious, cultural and gender norms. Among others, we meet two young men furtively pashing in an underground carpark, an alien spaceship heralding endless rain and the feverish invention of ‘helmbrellas’, and devout fourth-century Roman martyrs and lovers, Sergius and Bacchus, whose heaven is to ‘stroll the streets/ introducing one another to everyone you meet’. Cosmopolitan and moving, this translation demonstrates a fantastic ear for register and rhythm.