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August 2015

Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia

This month we present writing from Indonesia, where history and myth inform a rich narrative tradition. For many of the authors here, writing is both vehicle and subject, and their work represents and addresses the art and act of storytelling. Though the writing often turns toward the fantastical, at no time do the mythic elements here overshadow the stark realities and social struggles that permeate these stories: questions of women’s rights, fanaticism and provinciality, respect for nature and its creatures. Hasif Amini interrogates the origin of poetic invention, Taukik Ikram Jamil writes to and of a lover, and Clara Ng's retired teacher agonizes over the daily fairy tale essential to his survival. Mona Sylviana's cad turns a confession into entertainment. M. Iksaka Banu finds a journalist embedded with Dutch colonial invaders witnessing a tragic episode from the bloody Balinese past. In two tales of revenge, Abidah El Khalieqy's defiant prostitute shows up her client and tormentor, and Zen Hae's sly crow turns avenger. Acep Zamzam Noor mourns disaster and indicts the government response. We thank our guest editor, John McGlynn of the Lontar Foundation, who has done more than anyone to bring Indonesian literature to English-language readers. In our special feature, Tenzin Dickie translates and introduces stories by Pema Bhum, Pema Tseden, and Kyabchen Dedrol.

Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia
By John H. McGlynn
In October of this year, Indonesia will make its appearance as the guest of honor (GOH) at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF)—the first country from Southeast Asia to be so honored. Because Frankfurt…
The Wild Cherry Tree
By Linda Christanty
When I was still in primary school, most of my time was spent up in that wild cherry tree.
Translated from Indonesian by Debra Yatim
By Hasif Amini
In the fading night sky there are points of light, countless in number, vast in distance—who knows their size, their age? Yet, at one time, people drew imaginary lines between those stars and imagined…
Translated from Indonesian by Marjie Suanda
The Crow
By Zen Hae
But what caught most of his attention was the man’s wings.
Translated from Indonesian by Marjie Suanda
writing you
By Taufik Ikram Jamil
how to write youwhen the letters are reluctant to sound outvoices i knewvoices i memorizedrush back into lonelinessonly stillness noweven that soon moves awayfar to the edge of desolationsuspicious of…
Translated from Indonesian by John H. McGlynn
The Moon and the Magician in the Red Jacket
By Clara Ng
How could anyone survive on a primary teacher’s pension?
Translated from Indonesian by Pamela Allen
A Tale of Redemption
By Mona Sylviana
So you're hiding a communist, are you?
Translated from Indonesian by Toni Pollard
At the Borders of Homeland and Exile: Tibetan Literature
By Tenzin Dickie
I was around twelve, far too old to not realize what I was seeing. One night our usual evening study session at my Tibetan boarding school in Dharamsala, the capital of exile Tibet in India, was…
All for Hindia
By M. Iksaka Banu
I will find a way to get this letter safely to your hands, although it may take a long time.
Translated from Indonesian by Tjandra Kerton
By Pema Bhum
It seemed to them as if the Chairman were sharing with them a playful and secret sign.
Translated from Tibetan by Tenzin Dickie
By Acep Zamzam Noor
1When the ever so polite earthquakeRocked our villageI heard the singing and dancingIn the village squareSuddenly fall silent. Insects and other animalsThe grass, plants, and treesAnd even the words that…
Translated from Indonesian by John H. McGlynn
The Dream of a Wandering Minstrel
By Pema Tseden
Tsering the Wandering Minstrel traveled the road in search of a dream.
Translated from Tibetan by Tenzin Dickie
The Agate and the Singer
By Kyabchen Dedrol
Daughter of Brahma, you have suffered.
Translated from Tibetan by Tenzin Dickie
By Abidah El Khalieqy
“True. I am a whore. What of it?”
Translated from Indonesian by Joan Suyenaga