Category Archives: Indonesia
It is not a good idea at 5am on a Sunday morning to begin browsing the Net Galley catalogue of titles available for review. Of course that only became apparent a few weeks later when the request approvals began coming through and I realised a) how many I had requested b) how much reading I would need to do between now and mid November.
I’m not complaining however. Having the ability to read books by authors I enjoy or to explore writers I’m not familiar with, is part of the pleasure of the Net Galley program. I don’t always get around to reading everything but if I do read the title, then I make sure to write a review. It seems a fair deal to me.
Awaiting me are the following:
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: this is one I’m not entirely sue about. I enjoyed her novel Year of Wonders which is about a village in the Peak District in England which seals itself off from the world to prevent the spread of the plague. I know she does extensive research into her chosen periods to ensure her novels sound authentic. It’s really that I don’t know whether the subject matter of The Secret Chord, the life of King David from humble shepherd to despotic king, is to my taste given I have little interest in religious history. But I could be pleasantly surprised and at least I will learn something in the process of reading.
Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan is a wild card choice for me. Kurniawan has been named as a rising star from Indonesia and compared (favourably) to Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez. Her latest novel, set in an unnamed town near the Indian Ocean, tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families, and of Margio, an ordinary half-city, half-rural youngster who also happens to be half-man, half-supernatural female white tiger.
The Dictator’s Last Night by Yasmina Khadra
I must be one of the few people on the planet yet to read Khadra’s best selling Swallows of Kabul (ok, a bit of an exaggeration I know). I do have it in the bookshelves, just haven’t got around to it yet. The Dictator’s Last Night sounded too good to miss however. It’s focus is a figure whose name has long been associated with authoritarian political leadership and abuse of human rights: the former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. Khadra imagines the leader hiding out in his home town in the dying days of the Libyan civilc war. As he awaits a convey to take him and his advisors out of the danger zone, he reflects on his life, his animosity towards the West and the ingratitude of his fellow countrymen.
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’brien: She may be in her 80s now but Edna O’Brien is giving no sign she’s ready to throw in the writing towel. When her memoir The Country Girl came out a few years ago there was much speculation it would be her last published work. She’s proved everyone wrong with The Little Red Chairs, a story of the consequences of a fatal attraction. A war criminal on the run from the Balkans settles in a small Irish community where he pretends to be a faith healer. The community fall under his spell but he proves to be fatally attractive to one local woman in particular.
Paris Nocturne by Patrick Modiano: How could I possibly resist a noir work from the Nobel Laureate? Especially given that atmospheric cover….
This novel begins with a nighttime accident on the streets of Paris. An unnamed narrator is hit by a car whose driver he vaguely recalls having met before and then experiences a series of mysterious events. They culminate with an envelope stuffed full of bank notes being stuffed into his hand. Libération called this book “perfect” while L’Express described it as “cloaked in darkness, but it is a novel that is turned toward the light.”
And finally I have The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. It’s fair to say that I have not yet warmed to Allende. But she has a huge following and a friend keeps raving about her so I thought she deserved another chance. As the title suggests this is a romance. In it we see a young Polish girl meet in San Fransisco and fall in love with the Japanese man employed as the family’s gardner. Their relationship is tested when in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, Japanese residents in the US are rounded up and sent to internment camps. Fast forward to modern day San Francisco and the secrets of a passion lasting seventy years are revealed.
Any of these books appeal to you? or maybe you’ve already read some of them?
Welcome to the world of books. In the last feature in this series we travelled to Colombia to hear from Laura Sesana about writers and the literary scene from her native country.
This time we are heading for Indonesia where we catch up with Ratih Dwi, a freelance translator who blogs at booklypurple.
Let’s meet Ruth
I’m a freelance translator, mainly doing translation on commercial romance novels for a publisher here in Indonesia. I have a penchant for contemporary Western fiction, but I’ve been trying to broaden my reading horizon and not to limit myself to a certain genre or literary works from a certain country/part of the world. So that’s what my blog site is about. It is where I put my reviews after reading books of any genre and origin. And if people tend to divide fiction into literary and popular/commercial, then they’ll also find both in my blog site.
Q. What kinds of books are the most popular right now in Indonesia? Any particular titles or authors that are creating a buzz?
I think what is popular in my country very much follows the current trend abroad, especially in the US. So now young adult author like John Green is pretty much creating a buzz here. Though I can say that books about travel/personal journey and romance novels by Indonesian writers are also gripping most of our readers’ attention today.
Q. Who would you say some of the most prominent authors from Indonesia either now or in previous eras?
Pramoedya Ananta Toer is our most prominent author whose works were and are still very popular to this day, many people have read his books. But today’s authors like Dee (the pen-name of singer-songwriter Dewi Lestari), Tere Liye, and Leila S. Chudori have also standout positions in our literary world.
Q: Are there some novels or books that you were required to read when you were in school?
I cannot remember but I don’t think there were any. However, as far as I can recollect, they always inserted a paragraph or two from some Indonesian classics in our Bahasa Indonesia textbooks as a text sample for reading.
Q: Reading the Wikipedia page about literature from Indonesia, it shows a very rich mixture of culture. How does this reflect the way people write – do you think their approaches are different depending on whether they come from a Malay tradition for example or Sundanese?
In the past, cultural backgrounds indeed influenced the way people wrote, because their works were the reflections of their cultural upbringing and environment. The characteristics and social problems of each tribe are different and that mirrored in the characters, themes, and atmosphere presented in their writings. But I don’t think it’s still the case in our today’s contemporary literature, mostly.
Q: If there was just one book you think we should try to read to give us a good flavor of literature from your country, what would you recommend?Andrea Hirata’s Laskar Pelangi. Or any work by Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
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