Diverse Indonesia: Next Generation
Indonesia’s selection as Guest of Honor at Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 is a tremendous opportunity to show international audiences our literary and cultural achievements, and for us it also means re-publication of long out-of-print classics, a chance to learn the workings of global publishing industry, and international media spotlights on many authors and creative workers. As happened in other focus countries before, in Indonesia there were controversies surrounding the selection of authors featured in the Book Fair. When InterSastra was invited to the Fair by Literature Across Frontiers, in July 2015, I decided to open up space for the authors not yet selected by the Indonesian National Committee to participate in this year’s Fair. This is a form of our support for the Committee. In August, we sent out a call for submission, and then in September we read and selected the submissions without seeing the name or biography of the authors, so that we could focus only on the works’ quality.
We received submissions from established and emerging writers, whose works have been published widely in Indonesian media, included in prestigious anthologies, or won distinctions such as the Khatulistiwa Literary Award. The works we selected happened to be by writers born in the ‘80s and 90’s. Therefore, we named this collection Diverse Indonesia: Next Generation. We will publish one piece, in English and bahasa Indonesia, every Sunday from today until April.
For prose, literary translator Miagina Amal, Dalang Publishing's owner and publisher Lian Gouw, and myself selected the pieces to be published. For poetry, Miagina Amal and poet Zen Hae did the selection. Writer Norman Erikson Pasaribu gathered, solicited works, and formatted them before passing them to the selection teams. The stories marked *Bonus are selected by myself personally. I edited the stories, and then we approached emerging translators to translate the stories, and we paired them with established translators. This way, the project also became a training opportunity for the emerging translators.
InterSastra wholeheartedly thanks the translators, editors, and illustrators who are all working voluntarily to make this effort a success.
We hope you enjoy these stories and poems. Happy reading!
~ Eliza Vitri Handayani
Little Banta has heard this warning all his life: don’t swim in the river, or the evil spirit Baluembidi will drown you. After military men with strange accents rode into his small hometown in Aceh, and his father disappeared, Banta went to the river.
Gema’s brother was found dead after entering the sacred ancestors’ forest. Everyone in Gema's village in Kalimantan thought that he was cursed, but Gema remembered him telling her about strange men whom he had spied on in the sacred land, chopping down trees.
In Tanah Abang, South Sumatra, after girls married they would leave their parents’ hut and live with their in-laws. If a husband-and-wife didn’t have any sons, who would take care of them in their old age? Despite being over 40 and already having 14 daughters, Maryam is determined to have a baby boy.
These poems feel intimate as they are about everyday experiences, but the poet reformulates them with a very personal touch. With irony and humor, the poet explores the interconnection of identity and poetry.
Ah Xiang is convinced by his cousin's prophecy that tells him he is going to die today. He invites his family who hasn't seen him in a long time to come say goodbye. But his family doesn't believe in the prophecy. Will they come anyway? Will Ah Xiang really die today?
This is a story of an elderly Christian lady who keeps dogs while living in a Muslim-majority neighborhood—many Muslims consider the saliva of dogs to be dirty or unholy.
The poet eloquently reimagines and renders anew fragments from the Bible. He plants biblical images in everyday experiences, and he does it without pretension and with strong narrative logic. These fragments may be short, but they are bristling with life.
*Bonus - FEBRUARY 28: "On A Collaborative Poetry Translation" by Kaitlin Rees and Miagina Amal
In translating poems for our Diverse Indonesia: Next Generation collection, Miagina Amal embarked on an experiment with Kaitlin Rees. Whereas Kaitlin is a native English speaker and is used to translating poetry from Vietnamese into English, she doesn't speak Indonesian. At the end of their work together, Mia and Kaitlin have kindly written notes on their collaboration. Their notes shed some light into the process and specificity of poetry translation and how it differs from prose translation.
Told from the perspective of dead babies buried inside a tree, as is customary in Toraja, this is a fascinating and heartbreaking story of violence and tradition, greed and enduring love.
*Bonus - MARCH 20: "The Lighthouse", a short story by Bramantio, translated by Shaffira Gayatri
Mixing many elements of world myths, Bramantio tells the story of Samael, an immortal fallen angel who is reunited with the love of his life, who is reincarnated as a young man named Aditya.
Life is hard for the love child of a criminal, raised begrudgingly by his mother and the man she married to cover the family’s shame. Can the apple fall far from the tree?
*Bonus and final piece - APRIL 24: "Ad Maiorem dei Gloriam", a short story by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, translated by Shaffira Gayatri
An old nun retires to a secluded convent and discovers that God is no longer enough. She sneaks out of the convent and meets a little boy who calls her Grandma. Is it too late for that life?
“I’m happy that I can be a part of this project. Creating a new place, an equal place, outside of the politics of big names and biographies and awards. And to make it simultaneously in two languages, to write and read and publish and live as if limits and borders didn’t really exist, even though they do.”
~Kaitlin Rees, writer and literary translator, editor of Ajar literary journal (Vietnam)