Singer, songwriter and author Dewi Lestari took time to speak to us about London Book Fair, translation and what the UK can learn from Indonesian literature.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Dewi Lestari but I have a pen name, Dee Lestari, because Dewi can be difficult for foreigners to pronounce sometimes!
This will be my first London Book Fair experience, and of course I’m honoured, thrilled, I cannot wait to be there. I know that LBF is one of the most respected book festivals in the world so I’m so happy that I can represent some of my Indonesian fellow writers to go there.
You’re a songwriter, a singer, a writer. Can you tell us a bit about how you divide your time?
If I look back, I think deep down inside I’m basically a storyteller. I’ve loved music since I was small, and I love creating stories, they somewhat naturally form in my mind, and I like to imagine plots and all that. So it’s been a very natural tendency for me to build stories, but of course when it comes to writing it takes a lot more effort, and a systematic way to compose our thoughts into a compact story. So for me music comes more easily, but when it comes to writing I need to make mistakes, and learn from them. I took courses and I read books about writing, so it’s a more complicated yet very exciting journey for me.
What are you excited about learning about from the UK, and what do you think the UK could learn from Indonesia?
I think the UK has a very solid written tradition. The publishing industry there is way more advanced than ours, and also the reading habits and drama. You have Shakespeare, the father of drama and story-building, so there is something that Indonesians, who come more from an oral tradition, can learn more about. Also when it comes to the publishing industry itself, Indonesia is now progressing into better practices, but there is a lot for us to learn, such as how to create sustainable readership, how to encourage people to read more. I think that will take a lot of effort from all walks of life, not just from the government but from writers, too.
And vice versa, I think Indonesia has a lot of exciting things to offer: our culture, our thoughts, our various backgrounds. You know we came from a lot small kingdoms which came into one republic so there are so many varieties of cultures, and these are the kinds of things that we can share with the world.