In 1953, when Sitor Situmorang published his first collection of poetry, Green Paper Letters (Surat Kertas Hijau), he established himself as a prominent poet. In an essay he wrote some thirty years later, he would state that the poems of this collection expressed a single theme only: “love and wanderlust being two aspects of one and the same experience.”
To Love, To Wander, with poems dating from throughout Sitor’s productive writing career, is a travelogue, describing forty years of ontinuous love and wandering. It would be difficult to characterize his poetic work as a whole, even though the travelogue we could draw on the basis of a careful reading seems to deny every idea of development and change.
The main characteristic of Sitor’s poetry is the simplicity of its wording, the clarity of its syntax. The tales and descriptions bear a deceptive transparency: they suggest a coherence and control that is only confirmed in the regular rhymes and rhythms – but once readers set themselves to a serious interpretation, that transparency fades. The very lucidity leaves many open places that are not filled by making connections with other poems. Sitor’s poetry is a poetry of words, evoking concepts, calling up series of pictures and images that never come full circle.
This book offers a compelling view of sexual and gender differences through the everyday lives of tombois and their girlfriends (“femmes”). Through rich, in-depth, and provocative stories, author Evelyn Blackwood shows how these same-sex Indonesian couples negotiate their transgressive identities and desires, and how their experiences speak to the struggles and desires of sexual and gender minorities everywhere.
The first Indonesian novel ever to be published in English, Twilight in Jakarta offers a grim cast of characters: corrupt politicians, impotent intellectuals, reckless journalists, manipulative Lefties, and impetuous Moslems, to name a few. Although the novel condemns political practices that were prevalent in 1950s Indonesia, readers will find that it still resonates today, when once again Indonesia adopts a multi-party system with political parties that compete and collaborate at the same time.
Few Indonesian essayists can compete with Nirwan Arsuka in his ability to pull together different strands of thought, periods of history, and fields of knowledge in a cohesive unit that is easy-to-read. Nirwan exercises a remarkably dexterous hand when it comes to bringing characters from the distant past back to life.
Taufik Ikram Jamil’s poetry is filled with references to the geography, history and classic Malay literature. With their Malay flavor and diction, his poems convey a tension between the past and present, between the colloquial and the literary, and between regionalism and nationalism. The poet bequeaths the wealth of the Malay language.