Favorite Things We Read in 2014

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January 4, 2015 — Valent Mustamin


Since early December, we’re taking a look back at those nearly hundred titles and pick favorites in several categories, mostly from fiction and poetry. We’ve also collected favorite essays, short stories, blog posts, and summarized it into this post. There are also some selected works from years past that, for one reason or another, caught our attention in 2014. Read on … (sort by title, in alphabetical order)

Bound, — English version of Pasung Jiwa –, by Okky Madasari.
Published on June 15, 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Okky Madasari explores the seminal questions of mankind and humanity in her latest novel. This novel doesn’t only open up about the self-battle in accepting the sexual orientation and facing rejections and public’s scorn, but also wider issue surround a transgender.1

Dua Ibu by Arswendo Atmowiloto.
Published again in June 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama with a new cover. This is just a great story. A novel with social reality’s reflection in Indonesia, during the 1970’s.

As with other of Arswendo’s writing, they are easy to read and very touching. His view is largely formed to the fact that he is a Javanese, and therefore almost all of his writing has helped me in understanding the Javanese culture. Almost all of his book brought a new understanding and shifts the paradigm. In this book, he brought a new understanding of a mother, other than that being a maternal mother. With 8 (eight) characters of mother’s children, and also a particular insight from Mamid, the middle child. I am deeply touched by this book, and have learned to appreciate the maternal instinct of every woman, instead of any mother.2

A poetry collection, Ekaristi (Puisi Milik Semua #2), by Mario F. Lawi.
Published in June 2014 by PlotPoint Publishing. Anything by Mario F. Lawi, we devoured instantly. This was the best poetry collection we read this year.

Julia’s Jihad, by Julia Suryakusuma
Essay collection, published in July 2013 by Komunitas Bambu.
Julia’s Jihad is a selected column collection that written by Julia Suryakusuma which used to published every Wednesday in the English-language paper, The Jakarta Post, between 2006 and 2013. Others come from the English language edition of the weekly Tempo magazine.

Klub Solidaritas Suami Hilang: Cerpen Pilihan Kompas 2013, by A MuttaqinAgus NoorAris Kurniawan Basuki, Arswendo Atmowiloto, Budi DarmaDamhuri MuhammadDewi Ria UtariDjenar Maesa AyuF. RahardiGde Aryantha, SoethamaGerson PoykGuntur AlamGus tf SakaiIndra TranggonoIntan Paramaditha, Joko Pinurbo, Jujur PranantoNoviana KusumawardhaniPutu WijayaSeno Gumira AjidarmaSungging Raga, Triyanto Triwikromo, and Zaidinoor.
Published in June 2014 by Penerbit Buku Kompas.
It might be the most comprehensive collection of short stories, at least for us 😉

Putting the Word Out, written by Nithin Coca, and was originally published in Southeast Asia Globe, on October 30, 2014. This article mentions Andrea Hirata, Ayu Utami, Eka Kurniawan, Laksmi Pamuntjak, Oka Rusmini, Okky Madasari, and Seno Gumira Ajidarma. If all goes well, and if Indonesia’s government can build on Frankfurt, perhaps these names will be on everyone’s lips at global literary events for years to come.

Saraswati: Wisdom & Knowledge, a Bilingual Anthology of Indonesian Writing, by Absurditas MalkaAgus RoisBambang Kariyawan Ys.Bunyamin FasyaDias Novita WuriErni AladjaiFadel Ilahi El-DimiskyFaisal OddangIshack SonlayMaggie Tiojakin, Ninda DaiantiRegi Sastra SenaRio Fitra SYS Metron Masdison, and Sulfiza Ariska.
Published on October 04, 2014 by Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.
This anthology is featuring selected works of 15 authors invited to attend UWRF 2014. These writers passed the festival’s submission and selection process participated in by more than 600 authors from across the archipelago. This is the sixth bilingual anthology published by UWRF to promote emerging Indonesian writers.

Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas, by Eka Kurniawan.
Published in April 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Shortlisted for the 14th Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa, in Prose category. It is really fascinating. Dua Ibu was probably our favorite novel this year. But, in a way, this one is our favourite, too 😉

We’re amazed at how Afrizal Malna manages to deliver this one long piece about Sitor Situmorang, — Sitor Situmorang. Ilmu Alam di Bawah Kata (Indoprogress, 22 Desember 2014) — that we would recommend to almost anyone … to read.

Surat Kopi, by Joko Pinurbo
Published on August 29, 2014 by Motion Publishing.
Guess it’s a very good design of poetry writing. Even more, this book cover has won favorite poetry book cover at Indonesia Readers Festival 2014.

Surga Sungsang, an excellent debut novel by Triyanto Triwikromo.
Published in March 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama. Yet another shortlisted for the 14th Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa, in Prose category.

The Question of Red, by Laksmi Pamuntjak.
Published — as an English version of Amba: Sebuah Novel–, on March 24, 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Amba is a modern take on the story of Amba and Bhisma from The Mahabharata, set against the backdrop of the Indonesian mass killings of 1965 and the Buru penal colony. Its best in presenting the days prior to the Indonesian holocaust of 1966, and in its sense of the personal tragedies it brought to so many, when the country’s dream of freedom and independence lost all colour and was reduced to ashes.3. A national bestseller and has been printed several times since its publication in October 2012.

Translating Indonesian Literature: Promoting Culture, Spreading Ideas, Fostering Change Media Clippings. Written by Dirgantara Reksa Ginanjar, and was originally published in his personal blog, on August 07, 2014.

“The translation of Indonesian literature is not an optional convenience, but a moral obligation. The more works of literature that are translated, the better the opportunity for these works to be appreciated by a greater audience; this in turn will lead to a rise in the growth of Indonesian literature and its writers.”

From many of the best works we’ve read this year, Kusala Sastra Khatulistiwa’s two top honors; —Saiban, a poetry collection by Oka Rusmini, published in June, 2014 by Grasindo, and short stories collection, Semua untuk Hindia by Iksaka Banu, published in May 2014 by Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia (KPG)–, are definitely on our list.


  1. Reith Jerevinan 
  2. Haghia Lubis 
  3. Jennifer Mackenzie