Putu Wijaya (full name I Ngurah Gusti Putu Wijaya), born in 1944 in Tabanan, Bali, is one of Indonesia’s most prominent literary figures. He pursued his tertiary education in Yogyakarta, studying at the Indonesian Fine Arts Academy, the Drama and Film Arts Academy and receiving a degree in law from Gajah Mada University. He then moved to Jakarta, where he launched his literary career while simultaneously working for several years as a journalist with Tempo and Zaman.
Putu has been extraordinarily prolific, having authored some thirty novels, forty dramas, numerous film and television scripts and literally scores of short stories and essays. He is also known for his work leading Teater Mandiri, widely regarded as Indonesia’s foremost theatre collective. Putu’s philosophy of theatre is to create a tontonan (spectacle) that establishes a dialogue between author and audience and imparts a powerful, even shocking, experience rather than didactic message. His fiction is likewise marked by surreal, extravagant flights of imagination and his unique brand of magic realism presents a frequently mordant view of life in contemporary Indonesia. While drawing on indigenous genres, he recasts them in disorienting ways that push readers to question received norms.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Putu’s work has won numerous awards and he has received recognition outside of Indonesia as well, which has included fellowships to study kabuki in Japan, a residency at the University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program, and a Fulbright Scholarship to teach Indonesian theatre at universities in the United States. His writing has been translated into Japanese, Arabic and Thai as well as various Western languages.