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What Felix Nesi Does and Thinks When He Writes

Story / Interview

By Angela Shinta,
Sep 17, 2020

After Literature and Ideas Festival (LIFEs) by Salihara was held in late 2019, we got a chance to have a short conversation with Felix K. Nesi, author of Orang-Orang Oetimu, a fiction about people in West Timor that won the first place of Sayembara Novel Dewan Kesenian Jakarta 2018. In this interview, you will see how Felix, as a writer, embraces his unique nature while working on his crafts. Enjoy!

What makes you love writing and feel the need to write? And why literature?

I like writing. When I was at university, I was a part of the university press. I learned journalism. Now, my friends and I are parts of “Komunitas Leko” creating citizen journalism, and we have a website LekoNTT.com. So, literature is not really a final stage for me.

I heard that you hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology. How does it affect your writings especially when you create the characters in your novel?

I started my bachelor’s degree in Indonesian Literature at Sanata Dharma University, but it was so expensive that my parents could not afford it. I really wanted to go to university, so when I saw another institution offered a cheaper option to study psychology, I took that opportunity. It might have influenced me, but I’m not really sure.

Could you please tell us your routines that help you get the ideas to write? Are there any unique things that you used to do while working on your scripts?

I like eating papers. It helps me to think. Sometimes I also walk around my house, or maybe just a room. Sometimes I run. Sometimes I do push-ups. Sometimes I destroy something. But most frequently, I eat paper then walk up and down the stairs.

During the opening of LIFEs, you performed music and sang. Do these also affect you when you write?

When in Malang, I joined an art community named Komsen 69. I learned music, drawing, plays, etc. I’m not really sure whether these affect my literature works.

How long does it take to finish one novel script from scratch? (Ideas, plots, characters, etc.) Do you usually ask someone to proofread your writing before you send your script to the publisher?

It took me two years to write Orang-Orang Oetimu. I have another novel script, titled “Pertanyaan”. But it stays on my computer. It’s just so bad that I never sent it to any publishers or the media. I’ve sent the script of Orang-Orang Oetimu to so many people, not only writers but also friends with no interests in literature. They read it and gave me (invaluable?) advice.

How do you capture daily events and find meaning worth telling? How do you reflect on them and what perspectives do you usually use?

Ahh, I don’t really know how the process works. It just happens in my mind. I think I’ve always loved complaining since I was a kid. It gave me a good start.

In the short story compilation titled “Kode Etik Lelaki Simpanan”, you use a pseudonym. What are you trying to communicate through that name in relation to the stories in the book? That is Robertus Aldo Nishauf’s book. It talks about his experiences as an Indonesian poet. I’m just an editor and I helped send it to a publisher because I have a publisher, also a bookstore, named “Buku Fanu”. But I’ve introduced Aldo to “Penerbit Marjin Kiri”. I’d heard this publisher was interested in his script. I’m just happy to introduce more writers from Nusa Tenggara Timur to a group of great publishers and other Indonesian writers.

Tell us a book you’re currently reading. Is there any book that you read in childhood that has a meaningful impact on you until today?

I’m just rereading “A Political History of West Timor”. There were so many books I read in my childhood that are meaningful to me. For example, the short stories by Maria Mathilda Banda, Karl May, the Bible, “Anak-Anak Karimata”, etc.

Do you like drinking coffee, especially when writing? What do you think about an urban stigma that a writer usually loves black coffee and dusk too much? (This is not a very serious question :D)

I like sopi (a traditional alcoholic drink from NTT) more than coffee. But sopi kepala, that doesn’t make me have a headache. I just know that a writer is described through that image: coffee and dusk. Where I came from, we would usually go to a stall during a long trip. For example, from Atambua to Kupang. We would go to a stall to eat, and some people would order coffee. But almost no one would go to a stall near their house just to buy coffee. It’s weird. Do you not have coffee at home or what?

Okay then. About eating papers, could you please explain more? Don’t you get any digestive problems?

It’s like chewing gum. I throw out the pulp. I tear the tip of the paper, then eat it after writing something in the middle.

Do the stories in the Bible influence you to write?

I’m not really sure. I’ve always loved reading since I was a kid, but there were rarely any books in my hometown, so the Bible was the best option. There are so many stories in it, especially in the Old Testament. War stories, family conflicts, etc. There are also many stories on love and sexuality.

Do you consider yourself a litterateur?

I like writing and telling stories. But I’m not really sure if I’m interested in literature that much. To this day I don’t consider myself a litterateur. I mean, even the notion of a litterateur itself is still debatable.

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