Kudos to two Indonesian writers who recently won international awards. Eka Kurniawan, author of Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger, was awarded the Prince Clause Prize for achievement in literature last December, and Intan Paramaditha, author of Spinner of Darkness & Other Tales as well as Apple and Knife (both published by Lontar), was awarded a prestigious grant from PEN-New York. To be sure, there have been other writers who won equally prestigious prizes, nevertheless it’s gratifying when Indonesian literature gets recognized, especially amid fierce competition with writers from India, the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia, countries which inherited the English language of their former colonizers. Indeed, the prospect of Indonesian books being published overseas is getting better all the time, as evidenced by the increasing growth in the sale of copyrights at international book fairs where Indonesia is represented. Nuril Basri’s Not a Virgin, for instance, first translated into English and published by Lontar, will be published in March in the UK by Monsoon Books, just in time to make its debut at the 2019 London Book Fair where Indonesia will appear as this year’s “Market Focus Country.”
This bodes well domestically as government interest in preserving libraries and supporting literacy programs seem to be on the upswing as well, both in Jakarta and the provinces. The recently revived and upgraded historic, 102-year old Balai Pustaka library in Jakarta, now boasts an exhibition hall showcasing classics such as original copies of Siti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli, Azab dan Sengsara (Pain and Suffering) by Merari Siregar, and Layar Terkembang (Setting Sail) by Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, all of which were first published many decades ago. Balai Pustaka’s most ambitious project is the development of 1,000 community libraries across the Indonesian archipelago, with 410 libraries set up so far. Another ambitious project by Balai Pustaka is the conversion of over 6,000 book titles into electronic books. To date, some 3,300 have been converted.
The above is one reason why Lontar is keen to continue our Wiki-training programs of hosting writing workshops, especially for young adults. There is a lot of talent out there, which needs guidance and support if it is to be developed.