Hanna Rambe, a writer and journalist, was born 23 November 1940 in Jakarta. Her parents were originally from North Sumatra, her father, in his youth, lived near at the edge of the forest. Hanna Rambe’s fascination with nature seems to have started from the stories and legends her father and mother told her. These stories were embellished by her reading and occasional vacations to woodland areas. Hanna’s parents frequently took her on holiday outside Jakarta to be closer to nature.
Hanna Rambe was born and raised in Jakarta, but upon reading her stories, she seems to be someone who has lived close to nature and in isolation. Her novel Mirah dari Banda, describes life in the nutmeg forests of Banda and provides a detailed description of historical background. Her novel Seorang Lelaki di Waimital (Sinar Harapan, 1983) tells the true story of a young student from IPB (Institute Petanian Bogor, the Bogor Agricultural Institute) named Kasim, who went to do practical fieldwork in the interior of Maluku and remained there for fifteen years. Her most recent novel, Pertarungan (Indonesiatera, 2002), which she calls a novel of the ecology, describes the journey of a man forced by circumstance to hunt an elephant, the reduction of habitat and destruction of the environment as a consequence of Indonesian push for development.
Hanna Rambe was educated largely in Jakarta. In the mid-1960’s, she entered the Literature Department at the University of Indonesia where she enrolled in the English language division. Hanna however did not complete her schooling as she found herself standing against the political tide in the final years of the Sukarno regime. She entered the field of journalism, beginning as a copy-editor the newspaper Indonesian Observer, she then as a translator and reporter for Indonesia Raya until 1974. She also worked as a contributor to the magazine Intisari (1972-1977), and then as a journalist at Mutiara magazine from (1977-1992). Her work provided her the opportunity to travel to faraway places, as she had always wished. She drew great inspiration from her journeys that she translated into stories. When she wrote Pertarungan, while she set the story in Sumatra, she also gained inspiration from a trip to the interior of India.
Hanna Rambe is known as one who researches her subject in detail prior to writing; when preparing Mirah dari Banda she lived for a month in Banda doing research; while writing Seorang Lelaki dari Waimital, Hanna went back and forth to Seram, to the difficult to reach interior of the island.
Not all of her works are works of fiction. Her profession as a journalist influenced the form of her writing, a fusion of travel accounts and fictional stories and other topics she comes across. Among her other words are: Terhempas Prahara ke Pasifik, Mencari Makna Hidupku (a biography of Ibu Suyatin Kartowijono, a pioneer in the struggle for women’s rights from the 1920’s), and Pelayaran Cadik Nusantara (A youth who took a fishing boat alone all the way to Brunei).
Today, Hanna Rambe has retired from journalism and spends her days writing as well as teaching English.