From our world to people in the world

Note: The main questions from my sessions at the Philippine International Literary Festival 2015 are what does it take for a writer to explain her/himself and her/his works to an audience with different cultural backgrounds? How much responsibility to her/his country does the local writer have when writing for an international audience? Here are my thoughts.

I just got back from this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, where Indonesia was invited as the guest of honour. Indonesia is the first country in Southeast Asia who get this opportunity and for country like Indonesia this opportunity maybe would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As a guest of honour, we were given a big space to display our books and to use it to promote them. Our government spent a lot of money for this event, more than USD 13 million. The money has been used for translating books, bringing writers and performers to Frankfurt, setting up venue and programs that can attract people to come. We received a lot of publications in many international media for this.

But the most important and relevant question for this kind of event is how many books bought by international publishers to be published in their countries? Not many!



“Courage is a luxurious thing and can’t be taken for granted, especially when we live in a country like Indonesia. And to fight against censorship, we should have such bravery and courage.”


Why Write

Note: I talked at the discussion on “Why Write” at UWRF 2015. Here are my thoughts.

For me writing is always personal and political at the same time.

I started to write novel just 5 years ago. My first novel was published in 2010 and until now I have written 4 novels.

I used to be a journalist for years, had been writing reportage, news, story based on fact, based on what people said, make sure that everything already passed the check and balance process. As a journalist I used to write stories that relates with public interest, trying to make my writing as a criticism to government, trying to make unknown problem get attention from many people, trying to make people who don’t know how to speak can be heard. At the time, I started to believe how words have big influence to people. It can make government change their decision, it can make people know there is something wrong with their society, their country.

And then one day I found that journalism doesn’t fit me anymore. More

ARD Documentary Program

I am honored to be featured on a documentary program by the biggest of german television channel, ARD. This documentary was also aired on Arte channel.

In this program, I am talking about my life as a writer, my house, my school project, Kampung Muara, and of course literature. The program was aired on October 18. You can also watch the program here:


The german translation of Pasung Jiwa, published by Sujet Verlag, 2015


The German translation of Pasung Jiwa, GEBUNDEN, is now available in Germany, published by Sujet Verlag.

Love Reading, Love Writing

“Reading is the simplest political activity we can do.” – Okky Madasari

As a kid I like reading detective stories by Alfred Hitchcock, the Three Investigators. The books’ suspenseful content makes me want to become a detective myself. I started reading serious literature as an adult. The most memorable one is Umar Kayam’s Para Priyayi (Javanese Gentry). After reading that book, a thought occured to me: I must write a novel. The novel shows that a simple family story could capture the society’s condition. I also realize that a story told in a simple way, like a fairytale, really have the force to shake the soul.

For non-fiction, I read Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Antonio Gramsci and Karl Marx. They teach me to continously question societal norms and dominant ideas instead of submitting ourselves to what the majority says. Reading is the simplest political activity we can do.

Menggugah Kesadaran lewat Majalah Wanita

Yang selalu saya ingat dari majalah Kartini tentu saja rubrik Oh Mama Oh Papa yang legendaris itu. Sejak kecil saya selalu mencuri-curi kesempatan utk membaca rubrik itu. Jangan-jangan rubrik itu pula yang turut membentuk saya menjadi penulis prosa ;) Senang sekali bisa bercerita pada majalah wanita dgn oplah terbesar yg sudah berumur lebih dr 40 th ini. Tentu saja bukan utk rubrik Oh Mama Oh Papa.

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