It happened that I attended to Rizki Pandu Permana‘s public defense of his Ph.D dissertation* in Utrecht two days ago. He passed brilliantly. Of course. But then I heard his promoter ( doctoral supervisor) in a subordinate clause of her laudatio (encomium), reveal that Rizki previously had published fiction. Two novels actually. Extra-ordinary. Wow. And by association I immediately thought of Indonesia’s two-faced literary landscape; relatively few readers, relatively many authors.
A Florida pastor, Terry Jones, made the headlines by burning a number of copies of the Quran last April. A revolting act. Last week publishing company Gramedia symbolically burned 200 copies of “5 Kota Paling Berpengaruh di Dunia“. The ceremony was attended by and watched over by clerics of MUI. Allegedly on page 24 the book contained a less than flattering description of the Prophet.
Four years ago Ayu Utami wrote “Bilangan Fu” . Last March a Dutch translation of the novel has been published: “Het getal Fu“.
Please forgive my presumptuousness but I think it is an absolute masterpiece. This book-lover had a quite different opinion but to me “Het getal Fu” really is a must read. A treasure chest of over 500 pages. Brilliant construction, substantial content, overwhelming amount of factual and relevant details and an elegant style of writing.
Today the Dutch “Boekenweek” starts. It means publishers, bookshops and especially authors will make the headlines. And everyone who buys books spending a minimum amount of € 12.50 this week, receives a brand new short story (“Heldere Hemel” = Clear Sky) by Tom Lanoye for free.
All my adult life I’ve been an ardent reader. I love books – I like to touch (hard-)covers, the fragrance of folio-volumes and – it goes without saying- most of all the contents. I’m happy and proud to have collected a few thousand copies of novels, poetry and non-fiction over the years. A small number of them are by Indonesian authors (I’m looking forward to the moment Ayu Utami’s new novel “Cerita Cinta Enrico”will be translated into English (or Dutch :)).
I’m convinced books – okay, e-books included – can make one’s life richer, more valuable. It makes sense that I therefore admire initiatives to make novels, poetry and non-fiction available to children. Even more so if my own daughter in law and friend write an open letter to the people of their social network inviting them to take part in the plan to send books to Maluku schools.
Maybe the project appeals to you too:
Over the last days and weeks respectively two major events prove that in the realm of contemporary literature and art the Indonesian scene is rapidly moving from back- to front stage.