We discuss form, Indonesian Identity and what it's like to have another writer in the family.
Tell us a bit about your work
I actually started writing when I was kid. My first short story was published in a children’s magazine when I was 12 years old, so I’ve been writing for a long time. I was a fiction writer first, and then after college I studied in Canada to become a journalist. My first ‘adult’ novel is called Pulang, is been translated into 5 languages including English. It’s English title is Home.
My most recent novel, published at the end of last year, is called Laut. John McGlynn was the translator and he translated the title as The Sea Speaks His Name. ‘Laut’ means the sea, but it’s also the name of the character. It’s a story about the kidnapping of activists in 1998, several months before president Soeharto resigned, before the reformation: 22 students were kidnapped, and only 9 people were released.
How does it feel to have been chosen for The London Book Fair?
Well, I’m very, very glad - I’m very honoured. I’ve never been to LBF before. I think it's very important for us to go and represent Indonesian literature because it's not very well known internationally.
Your daughter, Rain, is an author too. How did she get into writing?
It wasn’t planned, it’s just that her father and I, we love books. She loves books, too, and she likes to write - I don’t think we pushed her. Her English teacher called me, and I thought ‘Oh no, what’s going on?’ But he said, ‘Your daughter is very talented, look at this composition she has written, it’s really good.’ I didn’t really read it, I was just glad she wasn’t in trouble. Her teacher said we should send it to the Jakarta Post, and that was the start of it. She writes in English though, so you can read it!
Can you give us some Indonesian book recommendations?
It’s a must for any foreigners if you want to get to know Indonesia, of course Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Buru Quartet because that’s a classic. There is a long history behind the author and the book. He actually wrote [the Buru Quartet] in prison, on an island, Buru Island, where all the accused communists were imprisoned. He had to write it and someone had to smuggle it out, the process itself is really interesting. But the book is also very well written.
I think, if you want something a bit more modern, any of my colleagues who were chosen in the 12 [for London Book Fair]. Also, Eka Kurniawan, that’s also a must. Between Eka, Pramoedya Ananta Toer and those 12, that’s a lot of reading!