Book Stories

Indonesia’s Years of Violence

Nov 10, 2020 / Romantisme Tahun Kekerasan
Indonesian writer Martin Aleida lived and wrote through a dark chapter of Indonesia’s history. His new memoir, "Romanticism in the Years of Violence", sheds new light on the oppression and stigma faced by journalists in Indonesia in the 1960s.

Putu Oka and Goenawan

Nov 10, 2020 / Romantisme Tahun Kekerasan
Putu Oka Sukanta and Goenawan Muhammad reflect on Indonesia's Years of Violence and their friendship with Martin Aleida. Supplementary material for "Indonesia's Years of Violence". The following two interviews with Putu Oka Sukanta and Goenawan Muhammad were conducted online in succession Wednesday 27 May 2020 and should be read to supplement Warief Djajanto Basorie’s review of Romanticism in the Years of Violence, a Memoir of Martin Aleida. The interviews were conducted in Indonesia and all translations are the author’s.

How Asian film is making moves to take over from Hollywood

Nov 10, 2020 / Dial A for Aunties
When Indonesian author Jesse Q Sutanto landed a book deal for her novel, Dial A for Aunties, she hadn't anticipated the film rights immediately being snapped up by Netflix. The Jakarta-based author describes her debut as 'Crazy Rich Asians meets Weekend at Bernies'. She says the tale - about a wedding photographer who accidentally kills off her blind date and then hides the body during an Indonesian society wedding - came along at just the right time. "Everyone was in need to cheering up, because of lockdown. The over-the-top plot, and the ridiculousness of a dead body and a big wedding is such great escapism. Chinese-Indonesian weddings are amazing, they can have an average of 2,000 guests - my heroine has to hide the body with the help of her mum and aunties." Sutanto will executive produce the film, which is directed by Nahnatchka Khan, who made Fresh off the Boat, a TV series about Taiwanese immigrants adjusting to life in the US.

Sepasang Sepatu Tua: Sepilihan Cerpen

Nov 01, 2020 / Sepasang Sepatu Tua
Sapardi Djoko Damono’s Sepasang Sepatu Tua might have just been released last year, but the contents are surprisingly not new. Most of them are recognizably included in the short story collection Pada Suatu Hari, Malam Wabah; so Mr. Sapardi’s readers might get the feeling of reading the “same” book twice coming from different publishers. The reason behind this decision to republish many of the same contents over a short period of time was not known, unless one wants to speculate the later publisher merely intended to use the late senior writer’s popularity to boost their sell, for this was not the first time they―or any other publisher―did so with senior writers’ old works.

A lauded Indonesian writer’s English debut and 4 more fresh horror books perfect for Halloween

Oct 22, 2020 / Apple and Knife
“Apple and Knife” by Intan Paramaditha, translated by Stephen J. Epstein (Brow): “Apple and Knife” is acclaimed Indonesian writer Intan Paramaditha’s first English publication, and its intensely personal short stories will leave you with bite marks and bruises. A work of subversive feminist horror inspired by myths and folklore, the claustrophobic stories here are inhabited by desperate people and have a suffocating feel. Their fears originate in both everyday life and the foreboding sense that there’s no escape from predators who hide in both the light and the dark in a country where few are safe — especially women and other vulnerable communities. They’re harried by cursed sea queens and stalked by menstruation hags on one side and preyed upon by a ruling class that’s been warped and perverted by wealth and power on the other. In Paramaditha’s hands, we’re not clear which is worse, or that there’s any difference at all.

Asian women writers gain a wider audience thanks to translations of their work crowdfunded by a British publisher

Oct 11, 2020 / Deviant Disciples
“Women do write. They carry multiple burdens, but they still endeavour to create,” says Faye Cura, co-founder of Gantala Press, a Filipino feminist literary collective and small press that publishes books and other publications documenting the conditions and struggles of women. “We know of a farmer who writes poems in her little notebook while waiting for people to buy vegetables in her stall,” she explains. “We know of a union leader who composed poems in her cell, after being wrongfully arrested for organising a workers’ strike. We know of a migrant woman worker who writes poems and essays after a hard day at the factory, and has even won literary awards for her writings. I think what publishers can do is to actively seek these works and publish them.” One such publishers is the non-profit, British-based Tilted Axis Press, which was founded in 2015 and focuses mainly on translated work by Asian writers .

Southeast Asian Women’s Fiction: 5 Short Reads

Oct 05, 2020 / Apple and Knife
Southeast Asian literature has not garnered as much attention as its neighboring counterparts. And yet, the worlds and characters crafted by Southeast Asian writers form a rich and subtly critical scene that begs to be discovered. Women writers, in particular, have much to do with enriching this region’s literary landscape. I have curated a list of 5 short Southeast Asian novels by women for a quick read. For those who wish to explore Southeast Asian women’s fiction, start here.

Kalis Mardiasih’s bold, moderate Islamic interpretation of ‘hijrah’

Sep 15, 2020 / Hijrah Jangan Jauh-Jauh, Nanti Nyasar!
Born and raised as a Muslim in Indonesia, I can’t help but notice the increasing popularity of the hijrah (migration) movement, especially among the young generation of Muslims in Indonesia. The transformation of young people from cultural Muslims into more devout ones has become more visible in recent years. From fashion to food, property to relationships, this hijrah trend has begun to dominate the mainstream narrative in Islamic society. One local brand even claims to offer the first halal certified hijab in Indonesia, which has made me question my own hijab collection. Is it not halal?

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.