Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash

English Translation of “Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas”
Translated by Annie Tucker

Published by:
New Directions Books, 2017 (US); Text Publishing, 2017 (ANZ); Pushkin Press, 2017 (UK);Speaking Tiger, 2017 (India)

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 one night he ends up witnessing the savage rape of a beautiful crazy woman by two policemen. Deeply traumatized, he 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 gets such a fearsome reputation as a brawler that 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 and even consulting it in many situations as if it were his guru—love may yet triumph.

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 female agency in a violent male world dominated by petty criminals and a corrupt police state.

“Kurniawan also skilfully manages to save his pulp fiction type novel from getting into that genre.”
Jackson Arn, Asymptote

“And as high-end pulp fiction, Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is superb.”
Tim HanniganAsian Review of Books.

“A darkly comic tale of boyhood”
Jane Yong KimThe Atlantic.

“This is an almost unbelievably fun and weird novel.”
– Publishers Weekly.

“Whether or not a political fable is intended, the squelch of blood and the crack of breaking bones tends to muffle any deeper message.”
– Financial Times

“Despite Vengeance Is Mine’s consistent bloodshed, it’s a very funny book.”
Bradley BabendirLos Angeles Review of Books

“… habitually drives his narra­tives between the extreme poles of the crass and the sublime, the tragic and the comedic, the surreal and the real.”
Bron SibreeSouth China Morning Post

“Kurniawan has become the rare Indonesian author to break through to a typically translation-allergic U.S. market […] Vengeance Is Mine promises dark, sexually charged and subversive comedy …” – Huffington Post.

“I believe the phrase is ‘page-turner.’”
Words Without Borders

“It’s funny, enraging, and touching.” 
– Village Voice

“Thrilling … an engrossing, emotionally rankling speed-read … original and sure-footed.”
Jane GrahamThe Big Issue

“Eka Kurniawan’s hugely inventive fiction is a potent blend of grounded realism and flighty fantasy.”
The Economist

Vengeance is wonderfully entertaining, and highly cinematic, its critique of patriarchal Indonesian society wrapped in picaresque adventure and anarchic comedy.”
Keshava GuhaThe Hindu.

“Indonesian-born Eka Kurniawan is one of the most exciting writers active today. Vengeance Is Mine, All Other Pay Cash is a madcap noir featuring an impotent gangster who undertakes a violent and epic quest to regain use of his ‘little bird’. encountering bewitching martial artists, truck drivers, and vicious criminals along the way.”
– The Culture Trip.

Other Works in English Translation

  • Man Tiger, translated by Labodalih Sembiring, Verso Books (2015); Speaking Tiger (2016).
  • Beauty Is a Wound, translated by Annie Tucker, New Directions (2015); Text Publishing (2015); Pushkin Press (2016); Speaking Tiger (2016).