This dazzling novella from a rising star of Indonesian literature explores generational legacies, lost loves, the damage that war does to men, and the damage that men do to women.
In today’s Jakarta, an unnamed man tells the story of his lifelong friend Nastiti, and what happened on the day she vanished. In the Dutch East Indies’ Semarang, a young Indo-Dutch girl, Rukmini, is captured by the Japanese military and is forced into prostitution. Years later, Arini travels to the Netherlands to share her mother’s dark past with a researcher.
After the American occupation of Japan in WWII ends, a former war photographer revisits his memories of Hanako, the wife of a traumatised ex-Imperial soldier, but can’t escape his own darkness. And in present-day Osaka, a young Indonesian woman, Dara, haunted by her past and struggling to conceive, becomes obsessed with a Japanese porn star.
Full of surprising turns, and in stunning prose, Birth Canal tells the interwoven stories of women that span time and history.
Dias Novita Wuri was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, 1989. She graduated from Universitas Indonesia, majoring in Russian Language and Literature. In 2019, she earned a master's degree in Comparative Literature from Queen Mary, University of London.
She has published short stories in Indonesian newspapers since 2012. Her first book, Makramé, was published in 2017 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama, and was longlisted for the Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2018. Her second book, Jalan Lahir, was published in 2021 by Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.
“The ground beneath the reader is constantly shifting … Birth Canal jumps in time and moves between places of security and insecurity, hiding and transit, literal and metaphorical light and dark … In the end, this extraordinarily accomplished and profound novel, translated from Indonesian by the author, is about how difficult love can be, and how precious.”
—Linda Jaivin, The Saturday Paper
“Indonesian author Dias Novita Wuri is a rising literary star. Her novella Birth Canal writhes with talent compressed into a forceful and beguiling suite of interconnected stories … Wuri’s gift for metaphor is matched by a supple and sidewinding narrative construction that follows women across time and place.”
—The Sydney Morning Herald
“[T]his short but electrifying book captures the life of a young Italian woman in Shanghai as she finds herself captivated by a beautiful, enigmatic woman named Xu … Blue Hunger goes on to explore identity in a writhing blend of lust and pain … Her strength as a writer lies in the layers of metaphors that weave into a narrative fabric thick with intertwined meaning … [A] dizzying, intricate study of grief, displacement, obsession and desire under the glittering veneer of Shanghai.”
—Fruzsina Gál, Aniko Press
“Birth Canal was written with a dripping golden pen. Captivating and devastating, the stories of these women are told with truth and love.”
—Laura McPhee-Browne, author of Cherry Beach and Little Plum
“[N]othing short of genius … For such a short work, it contains multitudes. Expertly translated by the author … Birth Canal reveals the triumphs and tribulations of several generations of Indonesian women, each dealing with their own personal struggles with their lovers, humanity, and the course of world events.”
—Driftless Area Review
“[Dias Novita Wuri] confronts the reader with the realization that often it’s too easy for us to simply look away. [Birth Canal] consists of expertly and beautifully crafted interconnected stories, its narrative jumping back and forward in time as echoes in a chamber where no trauma ever goes away entirely, but rather returns in another configuration … the spare dialogue allows stillness and solidarity to seep in through the violence.”
—Angelique Kasmara, Listener
—Tony's Reading List
“[N]othing short of genius … For such a short work, it contains multitudes. Expertly translated by the author Birth Canal reveals the triumphs and tribulations of several generations of Indonesian women, each dealing with their own personal struggles with their lovers, humanity, and the course of world events.”
—Driftless Area Review
“Crossing multiple timelines and cities in Indonesia and Japan to establish the links among its six female protagonists, this compact yet far-reaching novel endeavours to make visible both the female body and the structure of storytelling by using the idea of the birth canal as a site of conflicts and thwarted possibilities. Failed conception — stillbirth, miscarriage, filicide, abortion and suicide — thus represents both an acknowledgment of female trauma and a form of political protest. In exploring women’s sexuality, mental health, reproductive choice, and domestic violence, this gifted Indonesian author deftly explores topics that impact women in a Muslim-majority country.”
—Thúy Ðinh, book critic and editor-at-large of Asymptote
Ayu Utami’s “Rasa” Literary Prize
Badan Bahasa Literary Prize (Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology)