Ben Sohib’s stories, often set in Jakarta and with their panoramic backdrop of urban Muslim life, contain fierce criticism against religious radicalism and serve to admonish people who lightly use religious arguments to justify their actions. The author delivers his criticism in a light-hearted manner, making his stories the stuff of dark humor.
Siti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli is a classic novel that remains poignant even today. When it was first published, the novel made great impact on the region which was then known as the Dutch East Indies. But the novel stays relevant; the injustice experienced by key female characters in the novel is still a controversial topic in today’s Indonesia. Rich in descriptions, dense with foreboding, and filled with the inexorable workings of fate, Siti Nurbaya is much more than Samsu and Siti Nurbaya’s ill-fated love story. Siti Nurbaya documents the conflict between the dreams of a younger generation and stifling traditions. First published in 1928, Siti Nurbaya is still in print today and has been translated into several languages. HB Jassin, the prominent Indonesian literary critic, named Marah Rusli the first Indonesian modern novelist.
These neatly-constructed post-modern tales demonstrate the author’s skill at deception. Even in stories that contain portraits of reality, readers are compelled to question whether such “reality” is, indeed, real. These are stories that take jibes at both realist literature (with its emphasis on the social qualities of humankind) and absurd literature (which emphasizes humankind’s isolation).
Dinar Rahayu invites the reader into alien, experiential settings that explore issues of gender, sexuality and the downfalls of obsession. These stories explore the possibilities of gender role-reversals, for example in a society where men become pregnant and also intertwines the well-known allegory of the Siren, contextualizing it into outer-space to critique a researcher’s narcissism and obsession of reputation.
Instructions for Killing the Past is a very playfully funny and absurd collection of short-stories that mostly seem to center around an ambiguous ‘Ivan’ figure. These stories entail an openness about serial masturbation following profound hallucinatory story-telling about nature, a dark, macabre love between a man and a bird and confessional self-help instructions that was probably intended for the author all along.
Acep Zamzam Noor’s poems wrap silence around images of death and failure. Beauty and, of course, life itself is transitory. They are things that quickly pass, reminds Noor. The reader, when trying to uncover the meaning of the poet’s surreal scenes, learns much about the meaning of his own existence.
Reading Manna’s collection of poetry is a very orally and aurally therapeutic process. His free-verse and continuously repetitive rhythm and movement intertwines familiar images of Indonesia, in particular of Manna’s home city Surabaya. Simultaneously, he treats language in a way that evokes very unusual and sensory moments for the reader.
Warih Wisatana’s poems often present an unusual scene, which invites the reader to question the reality of that scene. His poems are not meant to shock, however: their voices are gentle, not forceful. He delves into the cultural heritage of the archipelago without the intention of revitalizing local color or political identity.
Sunlie invites the reader into sometimes, quite a surreal microcosm of his Chinese-Indonesian heritage and identity. This is a collection of short stories that is very culturally and historically multifaceted and describes witty accounts of people and ghost-spirits within a local community, exploring colonial, animistic and traditional traits of the places that he has created.
Avianti Armand is a writer, architect, and curator. She began to write architectural reviews in 1992 but turned her hand to poetry and short stories in 2008. Her work as both architect and author has garnered several awards and gained her wide recognition.
Sad Stories of Today is a very explorative, satirical collection of short stories that invites the reader into a superfluous account of a young E, crocodile humans and a brutal shoot-off. Dea’s take on the short story structure is unconventional and thrives in using the urban setting, colloquial language and intertextuality.
Intan Paramaditha’s stories are infused with gothic and horror themes. Depicted with a feminine sensibility, the majority of her protagonists are frequently femme fatales or madwomen in the attic who do not easily fit the social order. Her stories contain twists that both delight and disturb.
Many of Gunawan Maryanto’s stories are reinterpretations of Javanese literary texts which themselves were based on or inspired by episodes in the in the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian texts. Through their retelling, Gunawan shows himself to be part of a long tradition of self-examination and speculation about human motives, dharma, and fate.
Azhari’s reimagined stories of Aceh in the 17th century encompass a garden of extraordinary beauty, a turtle with chin hairs, pirates in the waters of the Malacca Straits, and so much more. The author’s enthralling storytelling, reminiscent of the 1001 Nights, makes you, the reader, ever so impatient for what comes next.
The Mystical Path of Badrul Mustafa is a collection of poetry that follows various narratives of Badrul Mustafa. Heru’s poems alternate from Badrul absurdly seeking truth from horse turds and unresponsive coconut trees to expressing contrarily sincere, symbolic confessions. The explanatory footnotes attached to the poems provide a satisfying depth to the cultural nuances of Heru’s home province, Minangkabau.
Nirwan Dewanto’s poems invite readers to explore a world which, at a glance, might seem familiar yet always conceals something beneath the surface –or vice versa. Objects and items normally encountered in everyday life appear very different in Nirwan’s poems, exhibiting a character and mien not common to them in real life.