Indonesia

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FICTION
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Mochtar Lubis (1922-2004) was an Indonesian journalist and novelist. His novel Senja di Jakarta (Twilight in Jakarta) was the first Indonesian novel to be translated into English. In 1949, Lubis cofounded Indonesia Raya, later serving as the daily’s chief editor. His work with Indonesia Raya led to him being imprisoned numerous times for his critical writing. Lubis was outspoken about the need for freedom of the press in Indonesia and gained a reputation as an honest, no-nonsense reporter. In 2000, he was named as one of the International Press Institute’s 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past 50 year. He is the author of six novels and two short stories collections.

Twilight in Jakarta
Half a century ago when Mochtar Lubis’ Twilight in Jakarta was secreted out of Indonesia and published in London, it was the first Indonesian novel ever to be published in English translation. The novel, a depiction of social and political events in the capital during the run up to a national election, contains a grim cast of characters: corrupt politicians, impotent intellectuals, unprincipled journalists, manipulative Leftists, and impetuous Muslims to name but a few. Although the novel represents a condemnation of political practices prevalent in Indonesia in the 1950s, readers today will find much in this novel that resonates still. It is re-published here at a time when, after three decades of authoritarianism and more than a decade of transition, Indonesia once again has a boisterous multi-party system of competing and collaborating political parties as well as a mass media which often both serves particular political interests and thrives on sensationalist stories of corruption and malfeasance.

English language translation: 2013

232 pages – Rights Sold: German (Unionsverlag), English, UK (Darf Publishers) – Original language: Bahasa Indonesia

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Anak Agung Pandji Tisna (11 February 1908 – 2 June 1978), was the 11th descendent of the Padji Sakti dynasty of Buleleng in the northern part of Bali, Indonesia. He had a varied career as a merchant, secretary to his father, Headmaster of a Elementary School, Editor of a magazine, and farmer, before succeeding to the throne on the death of his father. He is the author of four novels, all set in his native Bali.

The Rape of Sukreni
Violence, money, and melodrama—these are the volatile ingredients of The Rape of Sukreni. Written in the 1930s by A.A. Panji Tisna, a prince of the Balinese state of Buleleng, the novel is the author’s best-known work and is still in print today.
Sukreni is a modern Indonesian classic that draws on the melodramatic conventions of Balinese theater to present a powerful indictment of the commercialization of Balinese society. While on one level the novel appears to be concerned with the Balinese-Hindu notion of karma, its main thematic thrust is in fact the impact of modern commerce on Balinese society. In Balinese society an inhuman commercial ethic is turning people against all that is good and refined in themselves and their society.
Even more telling today than it was when it was written, The Rape of Sukreni offers a unique and dark insider’s view of the island’s future that violently challenges the conventional image of Bali as a honeyed paradise filled with artists and happy tourists.

English language translation: 2012

112 pages – Original language: Bahasa Indonesia

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Marah Roesli was born in Padang, West Sumatra on August 7, 1889. In the history of Indonesian literature, Marah Roesli is noted as the first author of a novel, and as the “Father of the Modern Indonesian Novel”. Before the first novels were written in Indonesia, prose literature was more similar to folk stories. His works convey the need to move away from the strong traditional values expressed in folk tales, and embrace change and development.

Sitti Nurbaya
First published in 1922, the novel Sitti Nurbaya: A Love Unrealized, by Marah Rusli, retains the poignancy that made it a modern Indonesian classic. In terms of its social impact in what was then the Dutch East Indies, Sitti Nurbaya may be compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the ante-bellum United States. Even to this day, the issues of injustice and indignities suffered by women that this novel raised continue to be debated throughout the country.
Rich in description, dense with ironic foreboding and the inexorable workings of fate, Sitti Nurbaya is Samsu and Sitti Nurbaya’s ill-fated love story. But in their wishes, the reader might also also discern young people’s tantalizing dream of what the East Indies society might become, or could become, if only local genius, embodied in a modernizing youth emancipated from stifling traditions, could fuse with European genius in mutual respect and admiration. This too was, of course, a dream never to be realized, and one perhaps which never could have been realized.

English language translation: 2011

322 pages – Original language: Bahasa Indonesia

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Iwan Simatupang was born in 1928 in North Sumatra and was an Indonesian novelist, poet and essayist. After involvement in the resistance against the colonial power, his arrest and release, he continued his studies in The Netherlands and France. He wrote his first novel, Ziarah (The Pilgrim) in a month in 1960; the work was published in Indonesia in 1969, and was awarded the First ASEAN Literary Award for the Novel in Bangkok in 1977. He also wrote Merahnya Merah (Red in Red) which received the National Literary Award in 1970 and Kering (Drought) in 1972. According to Benedict Richard O’Gorman Anderson, Iwan Simatupang and Putu Wijaya are the two “genuinely distinguished fictionalists” produced by Indonesia since Independence both with a strong attachment to “magical realism”.

Drought
Drought is a joyous celebration of life and human commitment. Its hero is an ex-student, ex-soldier and ex-bandit, who decides to transmigrate to one of the outer islands of Indonesia in order to start life again as a farmer. He almost fails, but so in so doing he is involved with a wonderful range of inspired madmen – bureaucrats, bandits, psychiatrists, religious teachers, and the beautiful woman known simply as the V.I.P. The outsiders humorously combine to question the normality of conventional society.
Iwan Simatupang’s earlier novel, The Pilgrim, has been hailed as the first really modern Indonesian novel and the beginning of a completely new path in Indonesian writing. Drought shows Simatupang writing at the height of his powers and is a lyrical testimony to the strength – and the unpredictability – of the human character.

English language translation: 2012

165 pages – Original language: Bahasa Indonesia

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Kwee Tek Hoay (31 July 1886 – 4 July 1951) was an ethnic Chinese Malay-language writer of novels and drama, and a journalist. He was the author of several works, mostly inspired by real life incidents and political issues. Hoay was honoured with the Bintang Budaya Parama Dharma award for contributing to the cultural heritage of the country in 2011.

The Rose of Cikembang
First published in 1927 as Bunga Roos dari Tjikembang, Kwee Tek Hoay’s The Rose of Cikembang is an excellent example of the so-called peranakan literature of the Dutch East Indies that flourished between 1900 and the Japanese Occupation beginning in 1942.
Highly sentimental in tone, the novel is rich in many of the controversial themes that Kwee was famous for: interracial love and the lives of its offspring, fate and karma, and mysticism and reincarnation. The Rose of Cikembang was reprinted twice and twice made into a movie. The film “The Rose of Cikembang” is noted as one of the East Indies’ first talking picture shows.

English language translation: 2013

150 pages – Original language: Bahasa Indonesia

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Triyanto Triwikromo (Salatinga, Java, 1964) was the winner of the 2009 Language Center Literary Award for the short story collection, Ular di Mangkuk Nabi (The Snake in the Prophet’s Bowl). Together with authors such as Budi Darma and Eka Kurniawan he wrote LA Underlover, a collection of short stories about the interaction of Indonesians with Los Angeles. His short stories have been also translated into Swedish and English. His most recent book is Surga Sungsang (Wrong Side Up Heaven), a novel published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in 2014.

A Conspiracy of God-Killers
Twenty-two stories by this noted Central Java-based writer and poet in his first collection in English, with their continent- and time-spanning backdrops of history and imagination. Stories populated by bereaved cops, heartless assassins, sainted heroes and mad saviours, dissolute poets, disgusted butchers and weary warriors, and children—above all, children. Children who have seen far too much in their still-young lives. These poetically crafted, frequently disturbing stories are leavened with sardonic wit, more than a touch of the absurd and outright bizarre in a world gone mad, and all solidly grounded on Triyanto Triwikromo’s own uniquely expressed moral clarity.
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 embodies a dominant theme throughout most of these stories, that organized violence and persecution of the vulnerable amounts to a conspiracy against God.

English language translation by the Lontar Foundation 2015

224 pages – Original language:

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Putu Wijaya was born in Tabanan, Bali in 1944. He is the Indonesian author considered by many to be one of Indonesia’s most prominent literary figures. His published works include more than thirty novels, forty dramas, a hundred short stories, and thousands of essays, articles, screenplays and television dramas. Since 1971 he has led the Teater Mandiri, widely regarded as Indonesia’s foremost theater collective. He has received fellowships to study kabuki in Japan, a residency at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, and a Fulbright Scholarship to teach Indonesian theater at universities in the United States. His writing has been translated into Japanese, Arabic and Thai as well as English.

Telegram
Putu Wijaya’s novel Telegram, published in 1973, has been heralded as a milestone in Indonesian fiction and as a trendsetter in its synthesis of reality and fantasy. Its first-person narrator is a Balinese journalist living in Jakarta with his adopted daughter. Early on he receives a telegram passing on word that his mother is seriously ill. But nothing is as it seems in Telegram. As readers are brought in to the stream of consciousness meanderings of this sympathetic yet troubled and thoroughly unreliable narrator, what is real and what is not becomes increasingly difficult to unravel.
Telegram, Putu Wijaya’s first novel, provides worthy insight into the author’s avowed strategy of creating “mental terror” in his audience. Although unapologetically psychological and disorienting, the text also offers a compelling portrait of Jakarta in the early 1970s and reflections on a Bali that was already in the grips of significant social change, making it useful for students of Indonesian society.

English language translation: 2011

120 pages – Rights Sold: German (Angkor Verlag) – Original language: Bahasa Indonesia

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