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Idrus was born in Padang, West Sumatra on September 21, 1921. His education before the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in 1942 was entirely in Dutch-run schools, where he read works of Western literature and practiced writing short stories; he finished his education in 1943, then began working as an editor at Balai Pustaka, the state-owned publishing house. At the beginning of the Indonesian National Revolution, Idrus was in Surabaya, East Java. There he witnessed the Battle of Surabaya, in which British forces under the command of Aubertin Walter Sothern Mallaby and revolutionary forces under the command of Moestopo began fighting after a miscommunication. In response, he wrote the long short story “Surabaya” about the human issues faced during the battle and aftermath from October 1945 to May 1946; Indonesian poet and literary critic Muhamad Balfas describes it as “perhaps the only satire of the Indonesian revolution.” During the war, Idrus became increasingly contemplative and many of his works from that period reflect this new attitude. In 1961, after pressure from the communist-backed Institute of People’s Culture (Lembaga Kebudajaan Rakjat), Idrus moved to Malaysia. In 1965, he moved again, this time to Melbourne, Australia, to serve as a lecturer at Monash University. In 1974 he graduated from that institution with a masters degree in art. He later went on to pursue his doctorate degree but died before its completion, in May 1979.

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