What Media Says

Indonesian writers as seen on English/foreign-language media. See also Media Clippings.

Oct 09, 2021 / Inside Indonesia
on Putu Oka Sukanta

The isolation poems by Putu Oka Sukanta

Putu Oka Sukanta, poet and writer, was imprisoned by the Indonesian New Order regime between 1966 to 1976 as part of the army’s seizure of power and the purges of the Left. He learnt acupuncture from fellow inmates in prison. When he was released, he could no longer write and publish his work. As a former political prisoner during the New Order, he was restricted in what he could do. Acupuncture became a skill he relied on to make a living. These poems were written during the Covid-19 pandemic when in the absence of vaccines and growing number of people becoming infected and dying in Indonesia, one of the easiest ways to protect oneself was to stay home and avoid contact with others. The themes of fear, dread, isolation, and desperate longing are reflected in the poems below. The poems were all written in his home in Rawamangun. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sukanta laid low to avoid becoming infected with the virus. He closed his home practice, and as a result, lost his source of income. Though he was not in prison this time, being in isolation, at times, reminded him of it.
Oct 07, 2021 / Coconuts
on Gunawan Maryanto

Celebrated actor, writer Gunawan Maryanto passes away at 45

Gunawan Maryanto, who famously portrayed missing Indonesian poet and activist Widji Thukul in a 2016 film, passed away yesterday evening. He was 45 years old. Gunawan’s family said he died at a hospital in Yogyakarta following a cardiac arrest. The actor’s cousin, Agus Basuki, told local media outlets that Gunawan attended a meeting at Teater Garasi (Garasi Performance Institute) ⁠— a theater collective where he served as an artistic director ⁠— in Bantul regency before he was brought to the hospital.
Sep 21, 2021 / Jakarta Post
on Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Oei Hiem Hwie: The guardian of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s banned literary tetralogy

This article is the first of a two-part story on Oei Hiem Hwie, a former political prisoner and a close friend of author Pramoedya Ananta Noer who today manages a library called Medayu Agung in Surabaya. Oei Hiem Hwie quietly smuggled the Buru Quartet, a series of novels banned under Soeharto’s rule, past the regime’s ideological enforcers. Without his courage, one of the novels, Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind), which explores the colonial period's sociopolitical issues, would have been unknown to modern audiences. The book, which remains one of the iconic author’s most recognized works, was banned by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) in 1981, allegedly because it promoted Marxist-Leninist doctrines and communism.
Sep 15, 2021 / Jakarta Post
on Erni Aladjai Felix K. Nesi Kiky Sulistyo Raisa Kamila Umbu Landu Paranggi

Off the beaten path: Five underrated Indonesian authors to dive into

A mysterious poet, a controversial yet humorous author and a politically charged debutante are among the country’s most underrated authors whose lives and works lay just beyond mainstream literature. Rarely recognized outside the circles of the most voracious readers and literary critics, these writers have spent years enriching the cultural landscape with their poetry, short stories and novels. They have pushed the boundaries of language and narrative through their writings on conflict, tradition, migration and hope, which offer a means of getting to know the country beyond picture-perfect postcards.
Aug 26, 2021 / Personal Blog
on Budi Darma

In memory of Budi Darma; a snippet of correspondence about old people and old age

I received terrible news on Saturday. Budi Darma, the Indonesian author whose short story collection I recently translated, had passed away. He had been battling with covid for weeks. I had been receiving updates from someone at his publisher (Noura Books) about his condition and had been hopeful because one of the more recent updates said that he was showing some progress, though still had a persistent cough. Then on Saturday morning, I received news that his blood pressure had plummeted and he was unconscious. Worried, I texted an Indonesian writer friend. A few seconds later, she received a text from her own editor at another publisher that Budi Darma was gone. I received further confirmation from someone else that it was true.
Aug 19, 2021 / BBC
on Amir Hamzah

A radiant light: The Indonesian poet Amir Hamzah

The writer Amir Hamzah is a national hero in Indonesia celebrated for both his poetry and his role in the development of the country’s national language. Hamza was an emotional man who struggled with thwarted love and inner conflict and created a beguilingly intense body of work. His poetry paid homage to Malay literary tradition infused with Islamic mysticism but also reflected new ideas springing up in the artistic circles in Java where he worked in the 1930s. Towards the end of that decade events conspired to enforce his return to the family home in Sumatra and ultimately led to his becoming a tragic victim of brutal retribution during Indonesia’s transition to independence. Rajan Datar is joined by Ayu Utami, an award-winning Indonesian novelist, playwright and broadcaster; Ben Murtagh, Reader in Indonesian and Malay at SOAS, University of London, and managing editor of the journal Indonesia and the Malay World; and Taufiq Hanafi, an Indonesian literary scholar currently at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies in Leiden. The reader is Sallehuddin Abdullah-Sani.
Aug 15, 2021 / Res Publica
on Goenawan Mohamad Laksmi Pamuntjak Leila S. Chudori Mochtar Lubis Oka Rusmini Pramoedya Ananta Toer Siti Rukiah Kertapati

Freedom! Freedom!: Women and Politics in Indonesian Literature

The 17th of August marks the day Indonesia rose to its knees. It’s natural then as if by automation, to think of Ir. Soekarno reading the proclamation aloud with charisma that lives on. It’s easy too, to think about a history so nuanced: the story of a quasi-socialist nation, bloody massacres whose aftermath remains unstudied, the rise and fall of ideology, the erasure of names; of people; of land; of narratives.
Aug 06, 2021 / Conversation, The
on Putu Oka Sukanta

Indonesian writer confronts COVID-19 through poetry

As Indonesia becomes the world’s COVID-19 epicentre, writer and activist Putu Oka Sukanta’s poetry reflects how the pandemic has changed human relations and ways to maintain optimism and resilience. As a former political detainee – Sukanta was imprisoned for ten years without trial by Suharto’s New Order regime and is one of the diminishing numbers of survivors of the 1965-66 mass violence in Indonesia – he knows too well the government’s shortcomings in meeting the needs of the country’s most vulnerable.
May 20, 2021 / British Library – Blog
on Siti Rukiah Kertapati

An inspiring Indonesian woman writer: S. Rukiah

The current British Library exhibition, Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women's Rights (until 1 August 2021), documenting feminist activism in the UK in historical context, is accompanied by a wide-ranging programme of talks and articles exploring the complex history of women’s rights across the world. A recent blog post focussed on Inspiring women writers of Laos; this blog highlights another inspiring female writer from Southeast Asia, S. Rukiah (1927-1996). The proclamation of Indonesian independence in 1945 towards the end of World War Two heralded another five years of armed conflict within the country: between Indonesian nationalists and the returning Dutch colonial power, but also between left- and right-leaning factions of Indonesia’s nascent military force. The period also ushered in a host of new literary voices. One Indonesian writer who came of age during this time, and whose writings were shaped by the pressures and anguishes of the Revolution, was S. Rukiah, whose 1950 novel Kejatuhan dan Hati (‘The Fall and the Heart’), is probably the most important early Indonesian novel by a female writer.
May 15, 2021 / Sierra Magazine
on Khairani Barokka

Meet 13 Asian and Asian Diasporic Nature and Environment Writers

For far too long, Asian Americans have been overlooked in conversations on climate change and the natural world. In a Yale School of Climate Change Communication report that purports to reveal which racial groups care most about climate change, for instance, the results for Asian Americans were unavailable, raising concerns over the low sample size. However, the inability to retrieve data on Asian communities—whether because of language barriers or questions over which ethnic groups are considered Asian American—reveals a more insidious concern: that Asian Americans have always been an afterthought in the national imagination. Since the Atlanta spa shootings last March, however, in which eight women of Asian descent were murdered, alongside the ongoing surge of violent attacks against Asian elders, Asian American community members and allies have been tirelessly organizing on social media and in the streets to #StopAsianHate. By extension, conversations on the Asian American experience are becoming more common in popular culture. But still, the discourse on how Asian communities are affected by the climate crisis continues to be largely dismissed in a country in which environmentalism remains a movement dominated by white people.