12 Indonesian Writers for The London Book Fair 2019

The London Book Fair Market Focus Indonesia 2019 involves twelve writers from diverse backgrounds, representing a variety of genres, with both well-established and emerging names from across Indonesia. The writers chosen also represent the diversity of Indonesia’s literature, reflecting multiple regions, religions and the richness of Indonesian culture and society.

Words and literature create opportunities for dialogue, for breaking down barriers and for changing stereotypes. Literature provides unique access to the identities, heritage and challenges faced in other cultures, while translation enables cultural relations between the world’s different linguistic groups. Indonesia’s presence as LBF Market Focus represents a unique opportunity to bring Indonesian literature to the global stage and to expose UK and international audiences to the best contemporary Indonesian writing.

Agustinus Wibowo is a prominent travel writer. A descendant of Chinese immigrants, the question of identity dominated his earlier life and shaped his perspective. The quest for answers has taken him to many different parts of the world, including Afghanistan, where he stayed for three years as a journalist. He also loves to venture along the obscure borders and to blend into various minority groups. His work has pioneered a new genre in Indonesian travel literature by allowing readers to experience the writer’s physical and emotional journey as they contemplate their own conflict and anxieties. His third book, a travel-memoir, Zero: When Journey Takes You Home (GPU, 2013) became a national best-selling and will soon be adapted into a film. His latest work, Us and Them, which reveals the roots of human identities and conflicts, will be published in 2019.

Clara Ng, born in 1973, is known for both adult fiction and children's literature. After finishing her secondary education in Indonesia, Ng went to the United States to study at Ohio State University. She worked in the US for several years before returning to Indonesia. She has released several novels, as well as numerous short stories, children's books, and some collections of fairytales. Many of them are best seller. She has won several national literary awards for her children’s books, among others Pascal's Hair Style, To Paint Love, A Very Busy Afternoon and Don't Tell Anybody and her young adult novel Varaiya's Spell was nominated for literary award. In 2018, her children's novel Dru And Tale of Five Kingdoms was translated into Tagalog language and published in Philippine. She just released her first English children's digital story series, Little Bo, with Little Lights Studio in Austria.

Dee Lestari, is a bestselling and critically acclaimed writer in Indonesia. She began her debut in 2001 with a serial novel Supernova. Dee is a two-time recipient of Indonesia’s Book of The Year Award, and also a two-time recipient of Indonesia Reader’s Choice Award as The Most Favorite Author and The Most Favourite Book. Aside of Supernova series, Dee has written Perahu Kertas (Paper Boats), three anthologies: Filosofi Kopi (Coffee’s Philosophy), Madre, and Rectoverso. Her latest novel, Aroma Karsa (Bentang, 2018), broke the pre-order sales record in Indonesia. She’s also known as an accomplished singer-songwriter. She had four albums with her former vocal trio, Rida Sita Dewi, and produced two solo albums. She has been writing songs for renowned Indonesian singers.

Faisal Oddang is a young author from Wajo, South Sulawesi. His book, Puya ke Puya, was chosen as the best novel in 2015 by Tempo Magazine. He was awarded Robert Bosh Stiftung and Literary Colloquium Berlin Grants 2018, Iowa International Writing Program 2018, ASEAN Young Writers Award 2014, Best Short Stories Writers 2014 by Kompas daily, and Prose Writer of The Year 2015 by Tempo Magazine. He has been invited as a speaker in Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2014, Salihara International Literary Biennale 2015 and Makassar International Writers Festival 2015, and participated in writer’s residency 2016 in the Netherlands by the Indonesian National Book Committee. His work is inspired by history, heritage, and ancestry of traditional Indonesian culture. He founded Makassar Institute of Literature: a school of creative writing, publisher and literary consultant based in Makassar.

Intan Paramaditha is an Indonesian fiction writer and academic based in Sydney, whose works focus on the intersection between gender and sexuality, culture and politics. Her short story collection Apple and Knife, translated into English by Stephen J. Epstein, takes subversive feminist horror to new levels, and was published by Brow Books (Australia) and Harvill Secker (UK) in 2018. Gentayangan (The Wandering), her debut novel on travel and displacement where readers choose their own narrative path, was selected as Tempo Best Literary Work for Prose Fiction in 2017. The novel received the PEN Translates Award from English PEN and the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant from PEN America, and it will be also be published by Harvill Secker in 2020. Intan was the winner of the Kompas Best Short Story Award in 2013 and the co-author of horror anthology Kumpulan Budak Setan (The Devil’s Slaves Club, 2010), with Eka Kurniawan and Ugoran Prasad. She has been invited to international festivals and academic forums and is actively involved in several feminist projects focusing on cultural activism in Indonesia. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University and teaches Media and Film Studies at Macquarie University. 

Laksmi Pamuntjak is a bilingual novelist, poet and food writer. She has written on culture and politics for numerous publications including the Jakarta Post, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Guardian. Laksmi’s first bestselling novel, Amba/The Question of Red, set against the backdrop of the Indonesian anti-Communist mass killings of 1965-66, won Germany’s LiBeraturpreis in 2016 and has been translated into several languages. Laksmi was the Indonesian representative at the Poetry Parnassus, the largest poetry festival in the UK, held in conjunction with the 2012 London Olympics. In 2018, the movie adaptation of her second novel, Aruna dan Lidahnya (The Birdwoman’s Palate, GPU, 2016) won two awards at the Festival Film Indonesia. Pamuntjak’s third novel, Srikandi/The Fall Baby, was first published in German under the title Herbstkind by Ullstein Verlag in September 2018. The original English-language version has been acquired by Penguin Random House’s imprint in Asia for publication in 2019.

Leila S. Chudori is an author, journalist and regular contributor for Tempo Magazine, and screenwriter for film and television. Her first novel, Pulang (Home, KPG, 2012) follows the lives of the 1965 Indonesian political exiles in Europe, and has received the Khatulistiwa Award in 2013 for Best Prose that has been translated into five languages, including English, German, and Dutch. Her literary career began at an early age, and since then, has published two short story collections, 9 Dari Nadira and Malam Terakhir, and The Longest Kiss, which was published in English and German. Her latest work, Laut Bercerita, a novel on the kidnapping of 1998 activists, is a national best seller and will soon appear in English under the title The Sea Speaks His Name was launched in 2017 with a short movie with the same title. Her writings explore the untold parts of Indonesian history and politics, the cultural and social position of women, forbidden literature, and the shifting heritage of a war-torn archipelago that we call Indonesia.

Nirwan Dewanto is a poet, essayist, editor, and arts curator. His poetry collections, Jantung Lebah Ratu (Heart of the Queen Bee, GPU, 2008) and Buli-Buli Lima Kaki (Five-Footed Jug, GPU, 2010), won the top poetry award in Indonesia in the respective years. His poetry has been translated into a number of foreign languages. He is the lead curator at the Salihara Arts Center in South Jakarta. He has participated in a number of residency programs, including the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, USA. His poetry in English translation is Museum of Pure Desire (Lontar, 2017). His latest book Buku Jingga (The Orange Book) is chosen as the best prose book/novel of 2018 by Tempo weekly magazine. His other publications include Satu Setengah Mata-mata (One and Half Spies, essays, Oak, 2016), Senjakala Kebudayaan (Twilight of Culture, essays, revised edition, Oak, 2017), The Origin of Happiness (poems in English and German translations, Lontar, 2015), and Buku Merah (The Red Book, prose-poem, Oak, 2017).

Norman Erikson Pasaribu is a writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Dubbed by the English PEN as “part of long tradition of queer Catholic writing,” his first book of poems Sergius Seeks Bacchus won a PEN Translates Award in 2018. Translated into English by Tiffany Tsao, the book will be published in the UK by Tilted Axis in 2019. In 2017, he won the Young Author Award from the Southeast Asia Literary Council. In the same year he was chosen as a writer’s in residence in Vietnam by Indonesian National Book Committee and Ministry of Education and Culture. He published a collection of short stories in 2014 and is currently working on his first novel. He is one of most the most celebrated young writers in Indonesia today. 

Reda Gaudiamo was born in Surabaya, East Java in1962, and currently lives in Jakarta. She writes short stories and novel for young adults. Her books, Na Willa (2018) and Tentang Kita (About Us, 2015), will be published in the UK by Emma Press in 2019. She was the chief editor of Cosmopolitan Indonesia and also publisher of several international lifestyle magazines in Indonesia. She has won several awards for her short fiction and novels, among others from Gadis and Femina magazine. In 2018 Reda was awarded a writer’s residence in the UK by the National Book Committee of Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture. Reda also knowns as a musician and singer. For more than 30 years she performed as a duo with her artistic partner, the late Ari Malibu, creating musical interpretations of poems. Today she’s working on the third series of Na Willa and her very first solo album. Both are due this year. 

Seno Gumira Ajidarma is a prolific author of short stories, novels, and columns. He is also known as a journalist, photographer and lecturer. Seno’s short stories both document everyday life and criticises contemporary social, cultural and political conditions. He writes about sensitive issues, including military violence in East Timor in the stories of Eyewitness and in his 1996 novel, Jazz, Parfum dan Insiden (Jazz, Perfume and an Incident). Other subject matter has included the so-called “mysterious killings” in East Java in the early 1980s, and instability in Aceh. He won some literary awards, among others South East Asia (SEA) Write Award (1997), Dinny O’Hearn Prize for Literary Translation for Eyewitness (1997), Literary Award from Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture for short story collection Dilarang Menyanyi di Kamar Mandi (Don’t Sing in the Bathroom, 1997), Khatulistiwa Literary Award for his novel Negeri Senja (The Land of Twilight, 2004) and for Kitab Omong Kosong (The Book of Nonsense, 2005). His newest book is Transit (2018), a short story collection, and Obrolan Sukab (Sukab’s Conversations, 2018), an essay collection. He is working on Nagabumi, a historical wuxia novel series.

Sheila Rooswitha Putri was born and raised in Jakarta. The Story of Lala, Sheila’s debut title in 2008, is a collection of stories about her daily struggle with mongrel dogs, a family trip, and an unlucky thief. She writes heart-warming stories about her life with her curious boy and active little girl on her blog, Sheila’s Playground. As most of Sheila’s stories are based on personal experience, Jakarta is a major inspiration for her. Her love of Jakarta has given birth to many urban sketches and several comic collaborations with other artists which brought her to participate in various conventions and group exhibitions, both domestically and internationally. Sheila has also given talks in various art events, where she shares her experience about how everyday life is the main inspiration of her works.