Feby Indirani was an accomplished TV journalist when she decided to become a full-time author. In DW interview, she talks about the potential of Indonesian literature and her own journey as a writer: DW

Feby Indirani

DW: In 2013, you decided to leave your job as a successful journalist for a life of uncertainty as a full-time writer. Were your family and friends happy with your decision?

Feby Indirani: Some of my friends were skeptical about my decision and called me crazy. They knew I had published some books, but quitting a stable job was quite shocking for many. When you are a TV producer and you host your own show, you are not expected to give it up for something as unconventional as writing. They asked me whether I was sure about my decision and wouldn’t be missing the TV glamour. Even after two years some people still ask those questions.

pallaviThe MIWF—held at Fort Rotterdam, a well-preserved collection of 16th-century harbour-front buildings—is the brainchild of local writer-feminist Lily Yulianty Farid. She founded the festival five years ago with nothing more than a prayer and a handful of sponsors. It is now the highlight of the city’s cultural calendar. Throngs of Makassarese, most of whom rarely read or buy books, gather at Fort Rotterdam to listen to authors from diverse countries—the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and India. Most writers, however, are from Indonesia, many from the periphery of the archipelago, places like Papua. They rarely get a platform to talk about their work.

In vibe and setting, the MIWF is as imaginably opposite as can be to Indonesia’s other big litfest, organised in Udub, Bali, by a fashionable Australian restaurateur. The Udub festival lures big-ticket authors with sumptuous meals and stays at luxury resorts. Tickets sell for hundreds of dollars; there are pricey special events promising a chance to canoodle with favourite writers over aperitifs and canapes. The audience is largely of expats.

laksmi
Laksmi Pamuntjak

Like the country itself with its 17,000 islands, the great diversity of peoples, languages and religions in the Indonesian archipelago has also left its mark on Indonesia’s literature. This means there is not just a single literature, but a dozen different writing traditions, including Malay (Indonesian), Balinese, Sundanese and Javanese. Poetry has always played a significant role in the cultures of Indonesia and the country is distinguished by a very long oral tradition. Poems, fairy tales and sagas have been passed down by word of mouth, since time immemorial – often accompanied by music and performed in groups.

The roots of Indonesia’s written traditions stretch back 2,000 years – further back in time than most Western literatures. Some of the earliest known examples are the stone inscriptions of Kutai, in western Kalimantan (Borneo), dating from around 400 AD, and the Talang Tuwo stone, dating from 648, which was found in Palembang (South Sumatra), the 7th century capital city of the old kingdom of Srivijaya. Already at that time, the site was an important centre for the study of Buddhism with an extensive library and more than 1,000 scholars from near and far.

How do you make 260 million people on 6,000 islands feel like they are all the same nation? Elizabeth Pisani takes a look at post-independence Indonesia: The Guardian

Indonesia-etc“Exploring the Improbable Nation” is the subtitle of Elizabeth Pisani’s Indonesia Etc. At first, I thought this ill‑advised, as I think you can make a case for all nations being improbable in their own ways. But I soon saw that she had a point, and it would even have been fair to call it something like the Really Improbable Nation or the Ludicrously Improbable Nation.

The first ASEAN Literary Festival spotlighted several regional issues, in particular the dearth of literary exchange, among countries in Southeast Asia: Publishing Perspectives

Indonesia holds several literature festivals, including the Ubud Litarture Festival on Bali and another in Makassar, amongst others. But earlier this month from, March 21-23, the capital Jakarta played host to the first ASEAN Literary Festival, drawing some 2,000 visitors. With ASEAN economic integration scheduled for 2015 and Indonesia taking the role of Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2015, it’s a good time to examine the impact ASEAN will have on literature and culture in the region. One hopes that the organization will be able to facilitate further literary exchange between the member states, something that has been long bemoaned.

Visit any bookstore specializing in imported books from the English-speaking world and the chances are you will find non-fiction and fiction bestsellers as well as a significant amount of classics that are the pride and joy of a country or a culture.

The giants of British literature like William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare and Jane Austen are never hard to spot, as are the titans of American literature. They stand on the shelves waiting to be purchased and read by eager minds and literary enthusiasts.

You can even decide on the edition; the cheap paperback by Penguin or the ones with more flashy and artistic covers from the same or other publishers.

Religious radicalism, ethnic clashes, racial slurs, a corrupt mentality and state indifference to a multicultural life has become the banal reality of the modern era, especially in Indonesia.

For the naysayers, these social ailments are considered the symptoms of a failed state — a state resembling Thomas Hobbes’s “state of nature” where brutishness always prevails and finds fertile ground.