Book Stories


Getting schooled

Feb 09, 2013 / The Rainbow Troops: A Novel
IKAL and his ten classmates, who call themselves “the rainbow troops”, attend the only free school in the poorest part of Belitong Island in Indonesia. They learn their times tables with twigs; there is no toilet and when rain leaks through the roof they study under umbrellas at their desks. But these resourceful kids know that education is the key to breaking the cycle of illiteracy and hard labour that runs through their families.

The Best-Selling Books in 10 Countries Around the World

Feb 03, 2013 / The Rainbow Troops: A Novel
The American edition of Andrea Hirata’s The Rainbow Troops comes emblazoned with its credentials: “A literary phenomenon: Indonesia’s best-selling book of all time; more than five million copies sold.” That figure is worldwide, of course — but the autobiographical novel, which was first published in 2005, has still sold over a million copies in Indonesia, where, according to the book’s publisher Bentang Pustaka, a book that sells 3,000 copies in a year is considered a smash hit. Will it do as well in the English-language book market? Only time will tell.

Novel ‘Pulang’ Asks Tough Questions of Indonesia

Dec 18, 2012 / Pulang
Poet and writer Sitok Srengenge pondered in silence as the spotlight slowly lit the stage at the auditorium of the Goethe-Institut, Jakarta, on Wednesday. His arms were crossed and his face was bearing the signs ...

Lost Love in ‘Amba’ Never Truly Dies

Oct 24, 2012 / Amba: Sebuah Novel
If you are searching for a book that is profound, original and evokes the story of Romeo and Juliet, where love is both the big question and the answer to all, pick up a copy of “Amba.” The beautifully written novel by Laksmi Pamuntjak, a poet, food critic, essayist and short story writer, will awaken in you that feeling of being deeply in love again.

Laksmi Pamuntjak: Beauty of the abyss

Oct 21, 2012 / Amba: Sebuah Novel
Poet and writer Laksmi Pamuntjak paints a new reality to the country’s 1965 tragedy. The slim figure of writer and poet Laksmi Pamuntjak wanders around Aksara bookstore at a mall in Central Jakarta, saying hello ...

The Failure of Free Will

Aug 16, 2012 / And the War Is Over
Nationalism, it seems, is no friend to nuance; but in the face of myth, fiction is perhaps a better corrective than scholarship. So it is that with some pleasure that we revisit Ismail Marahimin's 1977 classic And the War Is Over. Set in the Sumatran village of Teratakbuluh, the novel tells the story of a Japanese internment camp at the end of the World War Two. Cutting between the Japanese commander Osé, his Dutch prisoners of war, and the local villagers, And the War Is Over is a restrained portrait of the end of the Japanese empire.

Bilangan Fu by Ayu Utami

Aug 09, 2012 / Bilangan Fu
Ayu Utami was in the Netherlands in May 2012 to introduce her latest book, Bilangan Fu. In an interview she emphasised the three main parts of her book, summarising the three dangers of our time: Modernism, Monotheism and Militarism. Modernism has destroyed our naïve and innocent view of our world, annihilated our ability to see miracles. Monotheism has reduced the rich variety of spiritual ways to six only, the officially recognised international religions of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Catholicism and Protestantism. And these great global religions are especially damaging the rise and development of true spiritual life when they express themselves in a fundamentalist way. Militarism is presented in a somewhat nuanced way: not all military are bad people. They are very powerful and so it may be wise to seek the cooperation of good officers and try to do good things with them. This will not work always.

The Rainbow Troops: Indonesia’s Biggest Selling Novel

Aug 07, 2012 / The Rainbow Troops: A Novel
“My culture has a beautiful way of criticising without hurting.” At the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival Andrea Hirata spoke about his novel Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops), which has sold five million official copies plus ...

Historical fiction in a time of war and change in Dutch Indonesia – Lian Gouw’s ‘Only a Girl’

Jul 31, 2012 / Only a Girl
Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, then a Dutch colony known as the Netherlands’ East Indies, Lian Gouw began writing in 1991 and has never stopped. Her short stories and poems have appeared in several literary magazines. An earlier version of the first chapter of “Only a Girl” appeared in the 2006 anthology of the San Francisco Writers Conference, “Building Bridges from Writers to Readers.” That version was called “Her Predicament.” On Saturday, August 4, Ms. Gouw will be at Florey’s Books from 2 to 4 p.m. to discuss and sign copies of “Only a Girl.” “I was born and raised in Indonesia,” Gouw said, noting that this is also the setting of her novel. “I am Chinese and as far as I know, I do not have Indonesian blood. However, my roots sprouted in Indonesian soil and it is that soil, I now understand, that is under my fingernails and between my toes. But none of the characters in “Only a Girl,” represent someone specific I have known or myself. The work being ‘historical’ fiction, the mention of historical events and figures relates to truth.” “Only a Girl,” tells the story of three generations of Chinese women struggling for identity against a political back drop of the World Depression, World War II, and the Indonesian Revolution. Nanna, the matriarch of the family, strives to preserve the family’s traditional Chinese values while her children are eager to assimilate into Dutch cultural society. The unique ways in which the women in “Only a Girl” face their own challenges, reveals the complex tale of Chinese society in Indonesia between 1930 and 1952.

East Timor: The Final Hour

Jul 16, 2012 / Timor Timur Satu Menit Terakhir: Catatan Seorang Wartawan
The publication of the book from which the following excerpt is taken not only resulted in the loss of my 20-year tenure as war correspondent for Kompas Daily, the highest circulation national newspaper in Indonesia, but also in my ongoing exile in the US due to threats to my life. The book created controversy because of its explicitly unbiased coverage of the atrocities committed in East Timor between July and November 1999 in which I name East Timorese factions responsible for numerous deaths, but more seriously the names of Indonesian National Army figureheads that were involved in conspiracy and campaign propaganda days before the referendum.   The excerpt is taken from Chapter III and describes events that took place in Dili, the capital of East Timor, between the day of the vote and the day the results were confirmed.  A million thanks to Linda Gaboriau and Dylan K Widjiono for their contribution to this translation.
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