Putu Oka Sukanta and the Hidden Wounds of World History

What Media Says


About Putu Oka Sukanta,
Written by Lara Norgaard, and was originally published in Asymptote,
Jan 16, 2020


Putu Oka Sukanta does not fit the western image of a celebrated author. The writer lives in a simple house, tucked away on a surprisingly calm alley in industrial East Jakarta. He receives journalists and fellow writers in his home and writing space, which doubles as a traditional medicine organization and an acupuncture studio. It is not the kind of office with book-lined shelves and a large desk piled high with papers and poetic scraps; instead, herbal treatments line the counter by the front door and a large acupuncture table dwarfs a simple writing desk.

I visited Putu Oka shortly after his eightieth birthday to ask the author for reflections on his literary career. He gave me a firm handshake when I sat down across from him.

“So what is it that you need from me?” His question, straightforward and gentle, could almost have been an inquiry about a health issue rather than the beginning of my interview.

It may have been a little bit of both. Prolific but under-recognized, Putu Oka writes so as to heal his nation’s collective trauma. His representations of personal experiences as a political prisoner address painful histories that Indonesia has too long kept quiet. And for foreign readers, his texts have the potential to act as a multifaceted diagnosis of the country’s complex past and present.

Read the full article here.