Book Stories


Leila S. Chudori’s novel The Sea Speaks His Name goes in search of missing Indonesian student activists

Aug 24, 2020 / The Sea Speaks His Name
In the two years after his disappearance, the family of kidnapped student activist Biru Laut continue to lay his place at the table every Sunday. They play the record of his favourite song, Blackbird by The Beatles, and wait for him to come home. Laut may be the fictional protagonist of Indonesian writer Leila S. Chudori's novel The Sea Speaks His Name, but what his family goes through is based on the real-life accounts of those whose children vanished into political detention in the 1990s, during the last days of President Suharto's regime. Chudori, 57, won the South-east Asia Write Award for this novel, which was published in 2017 in Indonesian as Laut Bercerita.

Laksmi Pamuntjak reflects on ‘Fall Baby’, her time in self-quarantine

Aug 23, 2020 / Fall Baby
Like many other people during self-quarantine, award-winning Indonesian novelist, poet and essayist Laksmi Pamuntjak went through different stages. In the first two months, she found it difficult to write anything other than emails and messages to friends asking how they were. “You’d think it is the most natural thing, to counter the loneliness and isolation with exterioration, to manifest all our fears and uncertainty in paper and ink. You’d think they would come pouring out of you,” she said in an email interview. But in reality, she did not write anything down, much less write about her feelings, thinking that everybody’s story seemed more pertinent than her own.

Laksmi Pamuntjak’s ‘Fall Baby’ named best literary work at Singapore Book Awards 2020

Aug 17, 2020 / Fall Baby
A novel by Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak, Fall Baby, has been named "best literary work" at the 2020 Singapore Book Awards (SBA). Organized by the Singapore Book Publishers Association (SBPA), SBA is an industry award for books published in the country. The sixth edition of SBA, which was held virtually on Thursday due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recognized 10 categories, including Literary Work, Book Cover Design, Education Title, Illustrated Non-Fiction Title and Nonfiction Title.

Heritage food book The Way Of Kueh takes home top prize at Singapore Book Awards

Aug 13, 2020 / Fall Baby
Kueh led the way at the Singapore Book Awards on Thursday (Aug 13), as Christopher Tan's heritage food book The Way Of Kueh won Book of the Year at the annual industry awards by the Singapore Book Publishers Association (SBPA). The awards recognise the best in local book publishing. Best Literary Work went to Fall Baby by Indonesian writer Laksmi Pamuntjak, a novel about a controversial artist who discovers that her birth father died a political prisoner. It was published locally by Penguin Random House South-east Asia.

Locarno 2020: Introduction to the Open Doors Hub projects

Aug 06, 2020 / Jalan Tak Ada Ujung
Locarno’s Open Doors enters year two of its deep dive into the independent cinema scenes of Southeast Asia and Mongolia. Filipina filmmaker Isabel Sandoval and Indonesian director Mouly Surya will be among some 30 participants in the 18th edition of Locarno’s Open Doors, supporting independent cinema in the global south and east. The programme continues its three-year exploration of the Southeast Asian territories of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam as well as Mongolia in East Asia, which began in 2019. This second year will run online August 6-11 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but its key elements remain intact.

Book Ambassadors: What our envoys abroad are reading this summer

Aug 04, 2020 / Beauty Is A Wound
As we stay in Ireland, our diplomats recommend books to bring the world to you. INDONESIA Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan (2002) Kurniawan is Indonesia’s modern literary star, although he is little known outside this country. Beauty is a Wound was written nearly 20 years ago but translated into English only in 2015. The novel follows the fortunes of the prostitute Dewi Ayu and her community during the formative years of the Indonesian state. The author’s use of the supernatural and nods towards traditional folk practices, as well as pulp and dark humour, make it a very enjoyable, if sometimes disturbing, read, which also feels uniquely Indonesian. At its heart, however, it is really a story about the violent legacy of colonialism, occupation and intra communal conflict in Indonesia, all of which continue to shape the modern, complex Indonesia. — Olivia Leslie, Ambassador, Jakarta

It’s your Turn to (Re)Write the Story

Aug 03, 2020 / The Wandering
You wake up disoriented. You’re in a New York City taxi, speeding toward JFK airport. In your hand is a one-way ticket to Berlin. But you look down and find you’re missing a shoe—only one foot is ensconced in a precious, ruby-red slipper. They were a gift from an infatuated devil—your Demon Lover, as you refer to him—in a far-off metropolis, one with the sounds of the call to prayer, motorbike traffic, and meatball vendors echoing across skyscrapers. Your deal with the devil allowed you to travel freely but without purpose around the world, carried away from home by the curse of these scarlet high heels. Going back to Jakarta is not an option. But you, dear reader, do have three choices: Will you ask the cab driver to turn around and take you back home, to the New York apartment about which you recall nothing? Will you focus on your lost valuables and file a report with the authorities? Or will you continue onward, a hobbling heroine unfazed by a bit of imbalance, and get on that plane to your next destination?

Indonesian travel novel a tribute to open borders

Jul 31, 2020 / The Wandering
More than nine years ago the Indonesian feminist writer Intan Paramaditha began working on her first novel, a structurally ambitious pop fable that aimed primarily at liberating women from traditional roles to take to the roads of the world. "Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go wandering" was the tagline when the book was published in her homeland in 2017 under the title "Gentayanga," a name that the author says is often used to "describe ghosts who are not in the world of the living but have not crossed over to the other world. ... That state of being neither here nor there."

Perjamuan Khong Guan

Jul 31, 2020 / Perjamuan Khong Guan
Earlier this year, Joko Pinurbo, Indonesia’s much beloved poet, had just released his latest poem collection, Perjamuan Khong Guan. It is divided into four parts (or, cans, in this case), and some numbers may not sound new anymore after their previous appearances in newspapers last year. However, Pinurbo’s die-hard fans and loyal audience were sure excited about the release, because his works, newly or re-released, are always being looked forward to. Moreover, the title has in it the biscuit brand which is not only legendary but also has become everyone’s yearly joke at the Eid ul-Fitr day celebration in our country.

Indonesian literature goes digital with Sandiwara Sastra

Jul 12, 2020 / Lalita (Bilangan Fu #3) Orang-Orang Oetimu Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk Seribu Kunang-kunang di Manhattan
The phrase Indonesian literature might bring to mind memories of school assignments and required reading, but a new literary initiative is poised to appeal to the digital crowd. Sandiwara Sastra (Literary Play), a joint collaboration between the Education and Culture Ministry, the Titimangsa Foundation and KawanKawan Media, is adapting a variety of Indonesian literature into audio plays, perhaps taking note from the rising popularity of podcasts and audio books. According to Education and Culture Ministry director general of culture Hilmar Farid, Sandiwara Sastra was envisioned just last month when producers Happy Salma of the Titimangsa Foundation and Yulia Evina Bhara from KawanKawan Media discussed the idea with him. “Halfway through their discussion, I immediately said yes [to the pitch]. In my opinion, it’s a really important project as literary works are vital in shaping our identity and telling our story with all of its problems,” he said during a virtual press conference.