Achdiat Karta Mihardja is one of Indonesia’s most important writers from the 1940’s. His novel entitled Atheis (1949) is a significant work within the history of Indonesian literature, and later won an award from the Indonesian government in 1969. In Atheis, Achdiat depicts conflicts arising in the thinking of intellectuals through a discussion of religion in a society stuggling for indepdence under the occupation government of Japan. The novel reflects a time when Indonesia was consciously searching for its identity. The novel is not only seen as significant as a work of literature but also as a factual description of the history of thought among the young Indonesians who were struggling for independence. In 1972, Atheis was made into a film by the distinguished Indonesian director, Sjumandjaja.
His book of short stories, Keretakan dan Ketegangan (1956), won the National Literature prize from the National Council on Culture (Badan Musyawarah Kebudayaan Nasional or BMKN) in 1957.
Achdiat Karta Mihardja was born in Cibatu, Garut, West Java 6 Maret 1911. He spent his childhood and youth in the city of his birth. He moved to Solo to continue his education at the Dutch high school, AMS-A. At AMS, Achdiat became close friend with Amir Hamzah and Sanusi Pane (two of Indonesia’s most distinguished authors and thinkers). During his education in Solo, Achdiat became more active in politics as well as issues of culture and literature.
After graduating from high school in 1932, Achdiat went Jakarta to continue his studies at the Literature Department at the University of Indonesia. Achdiat began writing while in Jakarta, and later became the editor of Balai Pustaka. He was also the Head of the Greater Jakarta Cultural Bureau, and from 1956 to 1961 taught at the Literature Department at the University of Indonesia. In 1961, Professor Anthony Johns offered Achdiat Karta Miharja a position teaching Indonesian language and literature at Australian National University. From that time, Achdiat, his wife and four children have lived in Canberra, Australia. The Indonesian community in Canberra calls him Aki, which means grandfather in Sundanese. Now at over 90 years of age, Aki is regarded as a honoured figure within the local Indonesian community. While in Australia his productivity has declined but among the novels he has published are Debu Cinta Bertebaran, which is set in Australia. At present he is preparing to publish another novel entitled Manifesto Khalifathulah.