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Life’s course in lyrics

Book Chronicles / Review


As a Jack-of-all-literary trades—as essayist, short-story writer, translator, and poet—Sapardi Djoko Damono is best known asIndonesia’s foremost lyricist whose career meanwhile spans five decades of published work. It is the first four of these that are reflected in this collection of some 135 poems (1961-2001). The poetry is presented in chronological order, so yielding glimpses of a life in lyrics from young man to the loneliness of old age and of having been through it all. In other words, the subject matter of the collection is the experience of life. It is an existential exploration of “who are you, who am I?” that unfolds in amazingly effective language, touching on life's salient points, clarifying them as it were while making them accessible to others. A very effective device to do just that, is that the poet is never alone but always accompanied by “something walking besides you”. It is a soliloquy, and at the same time an internal dialogue between an ego and its alter.

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