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Great Indonesian Literature: Tales of Panji

The stories of Javanese cultural hero, Prince Panji Inu Kertapati, dating from the 13th century, mark the development of a truly Javanese literature that was no longer overshadowed by the great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Set among the eastern Javanese kingdoms, the stories tell of Panji’s search for his beloved Princess Candra Kirana, before the two lovers are happy-endingly reunited. During the Majapahit empire from the 14th to 15th centuries, the Panji stories became extremely popular, spreading from Java to Bali, Lombok, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Sumatra.

The Panji tales were spread by merchants along the trading routes, and became one of the most popular forms of literature in Southeast Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries, and crossed the borders to the Malay region where they are known as “Hikayat”. The tales further spread to Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. The Panji influence is described by renowned scholar Adrian Vickers as “a Panji civilization in Southeast Asia.”

Panji tales are unique as there was no single author; the tales were written by diverse authors, each bringing in their version of the story and in their local languages. For instance, Bali calls the Panji character Malat and varied Balinese customs can be found in the stories. In Thailand and the neighboring countries, the character of Panji is known as Inao or Eynao, and his lover as Bossaba.

There is no specific Panji storyline. Generally, the story is about Kuripan’s Prince Raden Inu Kertapati, who is engaged to his niece Dewi Galuh Sekartaji from childhood. However, the mother of Dewi Galuh plans to marry her to another prince. Galuh escapes to the forest where she experiences adventures and disguises herself as varied characters including a warrior who conquers other kingdoms.

Prince Inu Kertapati begins his search and enters the woods. He goes through a wide range of adventures that encompass meeting with ogres, amorous scenes, going through numerous disguises, and waging wars. At the end, the two lovers are reunited. The love story and the adventures are popular among all layers of society.

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Pramoedya Ananta Toer: Why You Should Know Him

Pramoedya Ananta Toer is widely regarded as one of Indonesia ‘s best writers.

At a young age, he joined the anti-colonial struggle against Japan during World War II and later enlisted in an army to fight Dutch colonialists .

He was captured and jailed by the Dutch in 1947. His foray into writing began in prison, at age 24. The Fugitive, his first novel, came out during his two years of incarceration.

Pramoedya or “Pram” – a hero of Indonesia’s anti-colonial movement and a champion of human rightsand freedom of speech – was born on February 6, 1925, in the poor Javanese town of Blora.

He died in the capital, Jakarta, on April 30, 2006 at age 81.

Pramoedya “dedicated his whole life to this country through his work”, his daughter Tatiana Ananta told The Associated Press at his funeral.

Google Doodle  marked the 92nd birth anniversary of the Indonesian writer and activist who spent most of his adult life in jail, imprisoned first by colonial powers and later by Indonesian governments.

“Each injustice has to be fought against, even if it’s only in one’s heart – and I did fight,” Pramoedya was quoted as saying in the book Exile: In Conversation with Andre Vltchek and Rossie Indira.

Pramoedya’s father was a schoolteacher and nationalist who inspired him to join Indonesia’s struggle against colonialism. His mother came from a pious Muslim family.

Despite only having a primary school education, he went on to write more than 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

The novelist is best known for the Buru quartet, which traces the birth of nationalism in Indonesia. A Javanese boy named Minke, who rejected the country’s hierarchical society, is the protagonist in the series.

“In fact the books were smuggled out of Indonesia by Pram’s friend, a German priest, to avoid being taken  or destroyed, and have now been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide,” Google Doodle wrote.

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Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer honoured in Google Doodle

GOOGLE Indonesia on Monday marked what would have been the 92nd birthday of one of the nation’s most prominent writers with a “doodle” on its homepage.

The Internet giant commemorated Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s birthday with an animation of the prolific novelist hard at work on his typewriter.

Known as a proponent of human rights and freedom of expression, Pramoedya or ‘Pram’ as he is affectionately known, has a reputation for fighting Japanese and Dutch colonialism in Indonesia.

Pram, who was born on Feb 6, 1925, in a village called Blora on Java, learned about political activism from his father. His first stint in journalism was as a stenographer for a Japanese news agency.

Imprisoned by Dutch troops for being “anti-colonial”, Pram wrote his first novel The Fugitive Behind Bars during his incarceration from 1947-1949. Read more

Source: Asian Correspondent


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Jaipur blows out candles on decade of promoting Asian writing

By Victoria Burrows

Without the storytelling traditions of his native Indonesia, writer Eka Kurniawan says he’d “just be a boring writer who literally followed what was being said by language teachers at school.” Instead, last year he became the first Indonesian writer to be nominated for a Man Booker International Prize.

Kurniawan will be on stage speaking about his work at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival (jaipurliteraturefestival.org), which runs from January 19 to 23 in Rajasthan, India, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival hosted 18 writers and drew a crowd of about 100 attendees, including some who “appeared to be tourists who had simply got lost,” according to the author William Dalrymple, who is the event’s co-director. Read more

Source: Asia Times


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Lost in translation: why the world is missing out on Indonesia’s best writers

By Dene Mullen

JK Rowling, Paul Kalanithi, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Bill O’Reilly. These people have a few things in common: they are the authors of Amazon’s five best-selling books of 2016; they all made millions of dollars for their publishers; and they are all from English-speaking countries. As English becomes ever more predominant as the world’s lingua franca, works written in English increase their stranglehold on the global literary scene.

It is acutely difficult for a ‘foreign’ author to break into the English-language market, where only 3% of the published works are translations from other languages. Even the world’s fourth most populous nation is struggling to have its voices heard: despite Indonesia being Southeast Asia’s most prolific literary nation, producing tens of thousands of books per year, its most renowned authors remain relatively unknown to the wider world.

Yet before Indonesians can even contemplate access to the vast English-speaking market their books need to be translated – and that is often where the problems begin.

“I think there’s a critical mass of very good writers [in Indonesia] who deserve much greater exposure, but they are only going to get that exposure if their work is translated well,” says Gill Westaway, a freelance translator and editor who lives on Lombok island, Indonesia. Read more

Source: Southeast Asia Globe


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The case of reading and preserving Indonesian literature

By Theo Kalangi

In March 2016, a study conducted by Central Connecticut State University (CCTU) entitled “Most Literate Nation of the World” placed Indonesia as the 60th most literate nation out of 61 nations on the list, above only Botswana, and below fellow ASEAN member Thailand. A survey by UNESCO in 2012 records that only one out of 1000 people in Indonesia have an interest in reading. It might sound meagre enough, but what if we ask this next question: how many of the 0.1 percent read books that were written by an Indonesian author?

In most developed countries, especially English-speaking countries, high school students are taught to read books, being exposed to the work of English literature greats like Mark Twain and Shakespeare and encouraged to enjoy and find fun in reading literature. However, in Indonesia, this practice is rare or not practiced at all. Yes, we are taught about the history of Indonesian literature and the periods that divide the styles of literature in Indonesia, but we are not given time to read in class nor are we properly taught to read and appreciate the works of our own people. Read more

Source: The Jakarta Post


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Book Review: Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan

beauty-is-a-wound

Prize-winning Indonesian novelist Eka Kurniawan isn’t for the squeamish. Freighted with semen, menstrual blood, excrement and urine, his tour-de-force, “Beauty is a Wound” (originally published as “Cinta itu Luka”) isn’t “la-di-da” chic-lit, a “adultery-in-bourgeois-Hampstead” novella or Euro-crime noir.

Instead, Kurniawan hurls his readers deep into the heart of Java, reminding us along the way that the world’s most densely-populated island (one hundred and fifty million souls on an area the size of England and still counting…) is far more rambunctious than the “sopan santun”, carefully-calibrated demeanour and unblinking passivity of its courtly elite with their slow-moving palace dances and often indecipherable double-speak.

The novel is like story-telling on acid.

Densely-plotted and overflowing with characters and incidents, “Beauty is a Wound” is also studded with pithy one-liners, witness the gangster Memen Gedeng’s frank assessment of mankind: “Every human is a mammal, just like a dog and walks on two legs like a chicken.” Read more


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‘17,000 islands of imagination’: discovering Indonesian literature

It’s the fourth most populous country in the world, yet it is rare to find an English translation of Indonesian literature that doesn’t focus on war or tsunamis. Why, asks Louise Doughty: The Guardian

There are some countries so vast and diverse that any attempt to summarise them feels insulting: such is Indonesia. With a population of 258 million, it is the world’s fourth most populous nation and the largest formed by an archipelago. When it was guest of honour at the Frankfurt book fair last year, it appeared under the banner “17,000 islands of imagination”, a phrase describing its geography but also encapsulating the complexities of representation. Indonesia is home to hundreds of different ethnicities speaking as many languages, and, along with Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, has a majority Muslim population that is the largest in the world. But, as yet, little of its literature has been translated into English.

Elizabeth Pisani is a writer and epidemiologist who has lived in Indonesia for many years. She has a simple explanation for this: ignorance. “Indonesia has no place in the British imagination,” she says. “It wasn’t a British colony and there’s virtually no Indonesian diaspora here, which means Brits aren’t even introduced to the country through food or a cultural presence.” In the absence of such historical links, can literature fill that imaginative gap?

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In the Bay Area, a Trailblazer Lights the Way for Indonesian Literature

“Indonesia,” declares Lian Gouw, “is more than just the island of Bali.”

Gouw, at 82, is a diminutive figure with an outsize presence, gifted with a voice that commands attention and the masterful air of a seasoned impresario revealing The Next Great Thing.

That thing, on this sunny fall afternoon at the Foster City public library in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the literature of Indonesia, the country of her childhood and a passion that consumes her every waking hour (and a fair deal of the not-so-waking hours of her associates back home, some of them confide). Continue reading


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RI steps into world literature arena at Frankfurt Book Fair

With the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair approaching, Indonesia is stepping up its preparation to exhibit its literature to the world.

The country was chosen to be the guest of honour at the event in Frankfurt, Germany, which will take place between Oct. 14 and 18 this year. It is the largest book fair in the world and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
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