Titles released under the Lontar imprint are primarily translations of Indonesian literature. Exceptions include large-format books that embody Lontar’s mission of enhancing international knowledge of Indonesian culture.
The poetically-crafted stories found in this collection by Triyanto Triwikromo –the first by this writer in English translation, are leavened by sardonic wit, a touch of the absurd, and the bizarre in a world gone mad. A Conspiracy of God-Killers is not itself the title of any of the short stories in this collection but derives from a suggestion by Triyanto himself. And small wonder! The title embodies the dominant theme of these stories: that organized violence and persecution of the vulnerable amounts to a conspiracy against God.
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.
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.
The first ever novel by a Papuan author, this story of generosity, greed, and resilience follows the friendship of several underwater and amphibious creatures. In this ecological parable, John Waromi shows the effects of “harvesting the storm” and reaping the results of actions beyond our control. He sheds light on not only the ecology of the southern Papuan coast but also the lives of its people and their culture.
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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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.
Earth Dance tells the story of four generations of Balinese women with conflicts arising from the demands of the caste system and personal desires. Our narrator, Ida Ayu Telaga, reveals how Balinese women wish to be beautiful and ultimately, find a husband from a higher caste group. When the stubborn Telaga defies her mother’s wishes and marries a commoner, her surroundings think this is a downward move. Behind their thick glossy hair and golden complexions, lies a web of jealousy and intrigue that bewilders Telaga: Is this what it means to be a woman? Earth Dance has been translated into German and published under the title Erdentanz.
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.
On November 1991, Indonesian soldiers opened fire on protestors in Dili, capital of East Timor, killing an estimated 250 people. For publishing a report on this massacre, Seno Gumira Ajidarma, an editor of Jakarta-Jakarta magazine at the time, was dismissed from his position. He sought another way to tell the truth about what was happening in East Timor –this time through “fiction.” The stories in Eyewitness both unsettle the mind and pull the heartstrings. With their strange, unnerving style, the stories also represent one brave author’s refusal to forget. “When journalism is gagged,” the author once said, ”literature must speak.”
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.
In Arab circles in the 1930s plays were staged not only to entertain but also to educate and emancipate the traditionally-oriented Arab minority. The playwrights wanted to emphasize that their community’s future lay in a free and independent Indonesia. Some plays were well received, other evoked protests. Fatimah was one that stirred up commotion. The play came as a slap in the face to traditional members of the Arab community, attacking their outdated ideas and practices, especially the role of religion in a secular state and the position of women. The play is as topical today as it was 80 years ago.
Fireflies in Manhattan is a collection of stories that represents three major stages in Umar Kayam’s literary career: stories about New York; stories about the 1965 Communist coup that remain unmatched for their sympathy towards innocent victims; and a series of poignant stories about Lebaran, the time of the Moslem year where those who have been away from home are feeling homesick. Umar Kayam’s stories vary greatly in subject and tone, but in all of them we can always hear the voice of the common man. Author of a large number of books brimming with different styles and genres, Umar Kayam gained a highly-deserved reputation as the voice of the common man. His books include short story anthologies, essays, novels, and children’s stories. His short story, A Thousand Fireflies, won the Horison Literary Prize in 1967 and he was named the recipient of the 1987 S.E.A. Write Award.