You started writing early in your high school days, what were you writing about most back then?
I think it is exaggerating to say I started writing at high school. I was already writing, but it was mainly journaling, which was not for public consumption. There was a poem (about a tree in the midst of rain, if I remember correctly) which I wrote when I was in high school and sent much later to the Horison (which is the most important magazine for Indonesian literati) and it was published. I actually started writing - in the sense of having my writing published - when I was at university in the 1980's. I wrote poetry and essays. Those poems were surrealist, on the themes of a dream landscape, a journey to the moon, playing chess, and of childhood. In essays, I tried to understand the problems of art and culture in modern Indonesia; the relationship between literature and politics or the relationship between art and science.
Indonesia is the Market Focus at The London Book Fair. What are your hopes The London Book Fair can help achieve for Indonesian writers?
For the past four to five years I have been actively participating in a series of important international book fairs, including Frankfurt Book Fair & London Book Fair. The internationalisation of the book world and the translation of Indonesian literature into foreign languages is important to increase the standard of publishing. Indonesian literature is not known in the sea of world literature: it needs better marketing to bring it to the attention of international readers. Indonesia's presence as Market Focus in LBF this year is important, but it is only one part of the enormous amount of work Indonesia's publishing industry has to do. To sell literature to a international audience is a new endeavour with a steep learning curve for the Indonesian publishing industry, including by Indonesia's own writers.
We’re looking at building connections between the UK and Indonesia, what do you think there is for people in the UK to learn from Indonesia?
The diversity of culture and languages of our archipelago that leans towards nationalism and internationalism, oral languages that are intertwined with writing culture, rural cultures mixed with urbanism, the remains of pre-science that is combined with modernity and post-modernity: those are what can be learned by the United Kingdom from Indonesian people.