Book Stories


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.

In Twilight Born

Jul 08, 2012 / All That Is Gone
When I was growing up, my family home was filled with young men – some of them my older foster brothers, the rest of them student boarders. One of my foster brothers was Hurip, who had recently graduated from the state junior high school in the provincial capital of Semarang. As is common with young men, one of the group’s favorite pastimes was gathering to shoot the breeze. Though I couldn’t understand much of what they talked about, I can recall some of what they said. Hurip, who was especially vocal, made the following comment one day: “What this country needs is dynamism. Our people are frozen in time. For once and for all, we need the courage to reject the idea that working for the government as a civil servant should be our ideal!”

“Indonesian Writing in Translation” edited by John M Echols

Jan 01, 2012 / Indonesian Writing in Translation
Indonesian Writing in Translation is a 2009 reissue of the 1956 Cornell anthology of translated modern Indonesian literature written in Indonesian during the 1950s. That classic, now a rarity, was originally published by two Djakarta publishing houses, Balai Pustaka and Pustaka Rakjat. Because of the lack of available material, the compilation originated as a series of class exercises performed by some of the editor’s students at Cornell University as a part of his advanced modern Indonesian language course during the years 1952-1955, presenting a brief survey of the literature being published during the time.

Bilangan Fu

Apr 23, 2011 / Bilangan Fu
Ayu Utami is one of my favorite Indonesian authors. The supernatural-spiritual tales on the story, featured with urban legend and folktales are her signature which made the story very Indonesia. She wouldn’t hesitate to bring ...

Brook Emery reviews Motherlode and Not A Muse

Jan 01, 2011 / Not a Muse, The Inner Lives of Women
In a preface, ‘On Reading Woman’, the Indonesian poet Laksmi Pamuntjak tackles possible objections to the anthology even more directly. Her answers to the last two questions are unequivocal: ‘yes’, then ‘no’. They rest. in part, on an undeniable political truth: ‘ in many parts of the world where women have no voice, no discourse, no place from which to speak, defining the ‘feminine’ is a luxury that cannot be corralled into the collective’. Really, neither book needs an apology or a theoretical feminist defence. The impregnable defence of both anthologies is just that they are artful, interesting explorations of human experience. Each one demonstrates the power of good poetry to engage people on emotional and conceptual levels not easily accessed by other means. How much more powerful, subtle and informing these poems are than shelves full of theory, therapy or self-help.

Review: Modern family

Dec 17, 2010 / 9 dari Nadira
What makes Leila S. Chudori’s 9 dari Nadira such an enjoyable read and an excellent piece of literature? This novel stands out because it touches upon a wide range of emotions and aspects of the ...
error: