Set in Jakarta during the Indonesian revolution, A Road With No End asks the question, “What must we do to free ourselves from fear?” The novel’s two principal characters, Isa and Hazil, are put to the test by the times. Isa is timid and submissive by temperament; Hazil, on the other hand, appears to harbor no doubts and does not know physical fear. But by the end of the novel, when the two are in the hands of Dutch Security, their personalities and how they react to incarceration produce markedly different responses.
History fascinates in the hands of M. Iksaka Banu. The stories in this collection feature well-crafted characters acting at key moments in Indonesia’s colonial past. Indonesia’s history has frequently been told through Western eyes. Now, M. Iksaka Banu reclaims the past and makes it come alive for today’s readers.
A Student Named Hijo has been recognized for depicting a new Indonesian youth culture that has adopted Western cultural and lingual facets. By contrasting traditional Javanese and Dutch cultural values, the author advocated a view that the two are incompatible. This includes love, described in the novel as something only those with a Dutch education would attempt to find. Rejected for publication by Balai Pustaka, the Dutch controlled publishing house, the work is now considered a classic.
What distinguished Mona Sylviana’s writing, is her willingness to look at the dark side of life and to confront societal issues head on. In Mona’s stories, the world is not a safe place for women. Yet her characters do not respond to situations as passive objects or victims; they challenge the accepted order.
The final days of World War II serve as the backdrop for this novel by Ismail Marahimin. Set in a small Sumatran village, And the War is Over is a tensely drawn story of the villagers, Japanese soldiers, Dutch prisoners, and Javanese workers who become, briefly but significantly, a part of each other’s lives. When a number of Dutch prisoners conceive an escape plan, tensions arise to a point where human relationships take center stage in this widely acclaimed novel.
The play in 1930s era is a room drama – a drama known better as literature rather than a play. Players in this period of time were not familiar with art performances. But as political way almost closed, they chose to disseminate socio-political ideas through literature or play. The Japanese arrivals in early 1940s changed that. Japan required all arts to be a propaganda tool, and sensory became stricter. But in the 12 plays in this second chapter, the players still insert reform ideas in plays written on colonial times as well as Japanese occupation period.
In a writing career spanning more than thirty years, Afrizal Malna has published several major collections of poetry and has seen his poems translated into several languages. Afrizal is concerned with questioning language and with bodily engagement with public and private spaces. It is through the appearance of everyday objects that his poems emerge as a repository of the cultural meanings of space and objects in Indonesia’s everyday modernity. His poems maintain a fine balance between consistency of style and variations in theme. These are poems that trace the quickly changing urban trajectory of present day Indonesia.
Sapardi Djoko Damono, one of Indonesia’s most productive and popular poets first began writing poetry as a high school student in the mid- 1950s. Before Dawn includes poems written by the author over a forty year time span, from 1961 to 2001. Arranged as they are in chronological order, the poems in Before Dawn together form a kind of poetic autobiography.
In “One Night,” written in 1964, the author is a young Muslim boy crying outside the church door as his classmates celebrate Christmas. In the 1967 poem, “For my Wife,” he is a young husband telling his wife that “the earth holds a spray of flowers, just for you.” In the 1981 poem, “In the Hands of Children,” he is now a doting father marveling that “in the hands of children, paper becomes Sinbad’s ship.” Jump to the 1989 poem, “At the Restaurant,” and he is now middle aged and wondering about the constancy of relationships – whether two people can ever truly share an eternal love. And finally, in the 2001 title poem, “Before Dawn,” the poet is a much older man, whose concerns are mental and physical frailty and, of course, death.
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Joko Pinurbo, a graduate of the Sanata Dharma Teachers College in Yogyakarta, first came to literary attention in the 1980s. He is known for his lack of pretense—both in his life and his work—and has published nine books of poetry, many of them prize-winners. In 2014 he received the SEA-Write Award.
In this coming-of-age novel four Indonesian high-school students seek to discover what their future will bring and find answers to their questions about sexuality. With characters ranging from cross-dressing hairdressers, drag queens, and rent boys to fanatic Muslims and low-life security personnel, the action of this tragicomedy moves between an Islamic boarding school and a gay bar in Jakarta, and in so doing illuminates the mindset and yearnings of a new generation of Indonesians.
English version: Not A Virgin
A coming-of-age story, a tapestry of erotic and tragic liaisons, a dreamscape of nightmares and wonders. But Ceremony is, above all, a tribute to the ceremony-rich life of the Benuaq Dayak, one of the many “upriver people” of Kalimantan. This post-modern (and first) novel by Korrie Layun Rampan took Indonesian literary scene by storm when it won the Jakarta Arts Council’s novel writing competition award in 1977. After winning the award, Korrie continued to establish himself as one of Indonesia’s major literary figures, but four decades later, Ceremony still has the power to thrill, awe, and mystify readers. This edition is graced by an informative introduction by noted French scholar, Bernard Sellato, on the rituals of the Benuaq Dayak people. It also contains a critique of the original edition by Indonesian poet and translator Dodong Djiwapradja.
Budi Darma’s stories are absurdist and surreal. Often in conversation form, they draw content from mythology, legends, and fables. There is an omnipresent mood of darkness that pervades much of his writing; a kind of bleak perspective that lies behind a thin cloak of normality and peace. In the modernist manner, Darma is interested in style, structure, themes, and plot. Yet at the same time, he disavows himself of the role of creator and regards his short stories as being the result of something external.
As a flight attendant for the new Indonesian Airlines, Elisa is determined to establish her independence and find a place where she really belongs. With a troubled family background and almost no knowledge of her ancestors, Elisa is searching for her true identity. The search for her true father proves to be heartbreaking and Elisa grows to hope that her marriage to a handsome Javanese man she fell deeply in love with will give her a sense of belonging ad stability. In this novel, Elisa learns what it means to be a young woman finding her way in the troubled early years of Indonesia’s independence.
Drought is a celebration of life and human commitment. The hero decides to move to one of Indonesia’s outer islands, in a government-run program called “transmigration”, to start a new life as a farmer. His near-failed effort takes him to meet various inspired madmen—bureaucrats, bandits, psychiatrists, religious teachers, and a beautiful woman known only as the V.I.P. The combination of these characters will make us question what is considered “normal” in a conventional society. The book is a lyrical testimony of the strength and unpredictability of human character.
The subject of Toeti Heraty’s poetry ranges from human encounters in an age of conceit to the confessions of an ever-restless soul. Many of Toeti’s poems give voice to the emotional struggles and disappointments of women. They show a clear feminist influence; yet their method of confronting the patriarchy is not always direct. Instead, Toeti quietly questions the complicity of a world that represses woman.
The stories in Family Room together make up a sojourn through time and space, with the reader traveling from Indonesia to Finland. The further away the protagonists roam, the stronger is the unspoken yearning for unraveling the traumas rooted at the center of their family homes. One especially strategic room is the kitchen, where women speak of dreams, fears, and intrigues. Another is the bedroom, where life and death play out. It is in these domestic, feminized spaces that family as well as political affairs are played out.