Lost among a long list of Indonesian national days to be commemorated but not necessarily officially celebrated, is “Happy Reading and Visit a Library Day,” which falls on September 14. First made formal in 1995 by the late President Soeharto, the chosen date was intended to raise people’s interest in visiting libraries. And though the National Library of Indonesia planned a three-week long agenda of seminars and related activities to celebrate the occasion this year, it failed to receive any recognition from the media as an important day in the development of Indonesian literature and national literacy.
Local outlets reported modest celebrations, mostly involving school children visiting libraries and hosting special sessions at various reading rooms that have mushroomed in the past few years. In Jakarta, the National Book Committee organized the LitBeat LiterAction Festival, of which Lontar was a sponsor. Aimed at bringing together publishers, writers, and readers to share the latest developments in the book business, the event was attended by close to 1,000 registered participants, including foreign visitors and numerous visitors from outlying provinces as well. The two-day affair offered an interesting agenda that seemed to touch all bases, not least of which addressed the challenges of doing business in the digital era.
With a bookish mood still in the air, another major literary event followed a few days later: the 37th Indonesia International Book Fair (IIBF), organized by the Indonesian Publishers Association (IKAPI), which also attracted numerous participants, including publishers, literary agents, editors, illustrators, and translators, who held animated exchanges during the networking session. On one evening of the Festival, Lontar, the German Embassy, and Frankfurt Book Fair hosted a reception for foreign publishers at the home of John McGlynn.
Given the thousands upon thousands of people from around the archipelago who attended IIBF, it is clear that public interest in books and book fairs is catching on. It is also encouraging to see the continued success of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF), which is now in its 15th year and the growing number of other literary festivals around the country. The Makassar International Writers Festival celebrated its eighth anniversary this year. The cities of Blora and Rangkasbitung are planning festivals, as is the East-Java coastal city of Banyuwangi. This one promises to be particularly interesting as the organizers are collaborating with a national media organization to focus on attracting Indonesia’s large millennial generation. Reportedly, all programs will be digitally interactive and submissions for a blog contest are to be sent online.
As usual, Lontar is always there, actively supporting and participating in these events, doing what few others can do as well, in promoting Indonesia through its culture and its literature, translating Indonesian books written by Indonesian authors into English and other languages. Selected work by Lontar is now available in German, Dutch, French, Arabic, and, very soon, Korean and Japanese as well. As we approach our 32nd anniversary next month, we hope that our friends continue to support us by donating generously.