New aromas

Media Clippings


This article mentions Abidah El Khalieqy Asma Nadia Ayu Utami Dee Lestari Djenar Maesa Ayu Fira Basuki Helvy Tiana Rosa Leila S. Chudori
Written by Meghan Downes
Originally published in Inside Indonesia.
Jul 17, 2015


In the early days of the reformasi period, Indonesia saw a boom in literature by young female authors, tackling topics that had been deemed taboo under the New Order regime. Labelled by supporters and critics alike as sastra wangi (literally ‘fragrant literature’), these narratives often contained highly explicit sex scenes and candid representations of female sexuality and desire.  The ‘fragrant literature’ was widely hailed as a step towards women’s emancipation from stereotypical gender roles on the one hand, and accused of flooding the market with vulgar, sensationalist content on the other.

Over a decade on, some of these novels are achieving huge success on the big screen.  The work of Dewi Lestari, for example, has resulted in five popular film adaptations released between 2012 and 2014. With more in production, it seems that ‘fragrant film’ is the flavour of the moment in Indonesia.  Yet in contrast to the critical furore surrounding ‘fragrant literature’ in the early 2000s, there has been barely a ripple of debate about the film versions, or the continued activities of other young female authors in the literary scene.

Read the full article here.