Writing Orang-orang Oetimu, Writing Wounds

All Things Books / Story

About Orang-Orang Oetimu,
Written by Lara Norgaard, and was originally published in Asymptote,
Mar 26, 2020

Two years ago, in 2018, a book by a little-known author won the Jakarta Arts Council annual award for best novel and became one of the most widely discussed texts in contemporary Indonesian literary circles.

Orang-orang Oetimu (People of Oetimu) by Felix K. Nesi is a portrait of a small fictional town on the island of Timor in eastern Indonesia. The book clearly stands out for its satirical wit, cyclical structure, and cohesive navigation of myriad perspectives. However, also remarkable is the way in which Nesi – himself originally from Timor—depicts the province of East Nusa Tenggara, a peripheral region that is seldom represented in Indonesian literature. His is a humorous yet fully heartfelt depiction of life in the context of pervasive violence in Timor. From 1974 to 1998, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) led a fight for East Timorese independence, and the Indonesian state in Jakarta attempted to crush the separatist movement at all costs, committing gross violations of human rights against members of the revolutionary movement and civilians alike. In representing the reality of Timor, Nesi also exposes political and social ills from across the Indonesian archipelago.

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