Titles in the BTW series—with “BTW” standing for “by the way,” as in “by the way, have you heard about such and such an author?”— feature work by new and emerging Indonesian writers. This series of mini-books is aimed at publishers, editors, and literary critics.
Cok Sawitri’s stories shed light on the lives of modern Balinese people and the various challenges they face. Readers are invited to examine the Balinese psyche, mainly their essential need for balance between traditional customs and modern-day life. But external conflicts aren’t Sawitri’s only forte; she also looks into people’s hearts.
The poetry of Hanna Fransisca is heavily-laden with Chinese cultural metaphors. The pleasures of eating and cooking might be shadowed by violence and sacrifice, or even eroticism and sadism. We hear multiple voices in Fransisca’s poetry: those of both the minority Chinese and all the women who struggle against the confines of patriarchy.
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.
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.
Clara Ng’s stories seem calm on the surface but they are liberally sprinkled with black humor and often contain unexpected elements of surprise. Her protagonists are usually women but rarely do they hold the same occupation. Ng’s stories are boundless; they serve as role models for women employed in a range of fields.
The book’s title, Ars Poetica, clues you in: the essays herein constitute a reflection on the art of poetry. With their lyrical language, Hasif’s essays are practically poems in disguise. Hasif writes as if in conversation with a friend for whom there is no need to lecture or show-off his knowledge.
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.
Lawi’s poems are a calm and intimate read that indulge in the use of metaphoric descriptions of nature and free flowing verses. This collection evokes his religious upbringing and traditions within his family and community while intertwining a sort of confessional exploration on the role and process of being a poet.
Caravanserai is a story set in Persian antiquity about a brother and sister who are adopted by a merchant called Uncle Babar. It is an exploration of the abuse of power within polygamy and the exploitation of sexuality through pedophilia. This story challenges the taboo of homosexuality by expressing very intimate desires and accounts between the male characters.
24 hours with Gaspar, a detective story is a satirical, unconventional and comic-like take on the generic, standard crime novel. Sabda plays with the reader as the story fluctuates from easy-to-follow narratives to the story’s trajectory and structure suddenly being corrupted through incessant repetitions of a line.
These excerpts from Arrived before Departing are melancholy to read. Centralized around a family’s dynamics, this story questions the taboo and issues about sexuality, religious stereotypes, collective ideologies within a community and navigating traditional spiritualism within a modernized world.
Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie’s All the Fish in the Sky is a whimsical and surreal work that revolves around the relationships between characters of personified animals, inanimate objects and a nomadic boy-god figure suspended in a purgatory-like space. Ziggy writes innocent and curious descriptions that simultaneously evoke these underlying societal issues about sexuality, religion and the environment.
The characters in Linda Christanty’s stories are placed in situations that force them to battle their inner demons. The achievement of personal insight, however, does not necessarily mean that her characters achieve redemption or resolution to their problems. Christanty explores the dark side of lives fraught with bitterness and gloom.
Zeffry Alkatiri’s collection of poems is a romp through history in verse. These poems are flashes of past events that are unrolled to form a historical mosaic of Indonesia’s capital city. Starting with the Dutch turning Jacatra into Batavia, the poems paint a unique picture of the development Jakarta has undergone to date.
Abidah’s work gives a voice to women. Women who are victims of polygamy, women who suffer domestic violence. She also gives a voice to an array of marginalized characters within the confines of Indonesian society. A characteristic feature of her work is a strong Islamic background. Her stories are often set in Islamic boarding school (pesantren).
Yusi Avianto Pareanom’s fictional characters are inseparable from their environment and cultural norms. The plots of these stories are no less idiosyncratic than their themes. With their focus on the urban environment, the lifestyles of the middle-class, and popular culture, the stories in this selection will appeal to readers of both serious and popular literature.