Book Stories


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."

Anak Semua Bangsa (Child of All Nations) – Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Jul 02, 2020 / Anak Semua Bangsa
Anak Semua Bangsa is the aftermath of Bumi Manusia, telling a story of how Minke and Nyai Ontosoroh picked up the pieces after their daughter/wife was taken away, and after their already-complicated-but-delightful life was shattered by the powerful meneer.

Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (2017) by Eka Kurniawan

May 06, 2020 / Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
There is nothing better than opening up a new category of literature with a new country, language or perspective.  Eka Kurniawan is the first Indonesian writer I've read, and the first writer translated from Malay. Indonesia's prior presence in the western canon is mostly limited to early 20th century Dutch authors and Joseph Conrad, and I'm unaware of any other contemporary Indonesian authors translated in any language.  There is much to enjoy in Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, about an impotent street thug who has to learn to live and love in the slums of Java.   

‘Pangeran dari Timur’ chronicles the tragic life of Raden Saleh

Apr 26, 2020 / Pangeran dari Timur
Indonesian authors Iksaka Banu and Kurnia Effendi have just launched a book they co-authored, a nearly 600-page historical novel called Pangeran Dari Timur that was more than 20 years in the making. The double-plot novel that centers on the life of the great painter Raden Saleh (1811-1880) and the Indonesian intellectuals of the early 20th century is a tragic story of how colonialism and racism let Indonesia’s creative and intellectual minds down in the pre-independence era. The life and death of Raden Saleh is the anchor of the dual narrative, beginning with his artistic talents and interests emerging as a child and through the eventual expansion of his artistic abilities under his Dutch mentor, Antoine Auguste Joseph Payen.

The Books We’re Reading Now

Apr 24, 2020 / Man Tiger
Four DestinAsian editors suggest four bestselling titles to help pass the time while staying at home. Man Tiger, Eka Kurniawan I was drawn to the magic realism of Laura Esquivel and Gabriel García Márquez while in high school, and not long after relocating to Indonesia four years ago, I began to feel that my new home was fertile ground for a similar kind of fiction writing. Indonesia has a rich tradition of folklore that exerts a certain influence on modern life. Even today, there’s a deeply entrenched belief in superstition, haunted trees, inanimate objects with mystical powers, and all kinds of supernatural beings. So, when a literature-loving friend introduced me to the works of Eka Kurniawan—who has been hailed as a successor to the late and great Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer—I was immediately captivated.

9 Indonesian book translations to read on World Book Day

Apr 23, 2020 / Eyewitness: Short Story Paper Boats Sergius Seeks Bacchus The Adventures of Na Willa The Birdwoman’s Palate The Original Dream The Wandering There Is No New York Today Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash
In times when you literally cannot go anywhere beyond the confines of your house, reading has become a means of escapism for many people. Speaking of reading, we will soon celebrate the annual World Book Day on April 23, which aims "to promote the enjoyment of books and reading". According to UNESCO on its official website, the date was chosen during its General Conference, held in Paris in 1995 to pay tribute to several prominent authors who died on that date -- William Shakespeare, Miguel Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, to name a few. While some Indonesian authors such as Pramoedya Ananta Toer and YB Mangunwijaya are relatively well known by global readers, many works by contemporary writers are just beginning to gain traction as they have just been translated in recent years.

‘The Wandering’: Intan Paramaditha’s magical red shoes

Apr 12, 2020 / The Wandering
In the novel The Wandering, the protagonist gives into temptation and makes a deal with the devil. He gives her a pair of magical red shoes that allows her to fulfill her greatest desire: to travel the world. The devil’s gift, however, comes with a stern warning: “Adventure, or more precisely, wandering, will be your eternal lot. You will find shelter, but never home.” So begins the protagonist’s – and the reader’s – journey. Written in an interactive format similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” children’s series, The Wandering, which was first published in 2017 in the original Indonesian as Gentayangan, moves from one place to the next, be it Berlin, New York, Lima or Amsterdam.