Translation, Globalization and Indonesian Literature: Islands of Imagination?
Time & LocationSession 11
Fri 13:30–15:00 Room 1.402
- Stephen Epstein Victoria University of Wellington
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- Cosmopolitanism in Indonesian Women’s Writings Silvia Mayasari-Hoffert Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Since the fall of the New Order government in 1998 and the publication of Ayu Utami’s Saman that year, Indonesian women have increasingly found global acceptance, often taking centre stage in international literature festivals. Laksmi Pamuntjak’s Amba (2012) and Leila Chudori’s Home (2012) took the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 by storm. The novels, published but two months apart, share noteworthy similarities: each features a well-read man exiled because of an alleged affiliation with the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), whose story is seen from the perspective of a woman in his life who later takes the brunt of the allegations decades after the anti-leftist purge of 1965-66. Secondly, both texts repeatedly reference the Mahabharata. Because of these similarities, Amba and Home are often discussed together. In each case, the female protagonist matures amidst cultural and political collisions into a cosmopolitan-minded woman well-versed in her local cultural heritage. Notions of cosmopolitanism are central to both novels and deployed by their authors not only to negotiate a neutral position in a country gripped by the Red Scare, but also to aim at a global readership and put Indonesian literature on the world map. Through a close reading of Amba and Home, this paper examines the pattern of these critically acclaimed novels by Indonesian women writers and their rise to global fame.
- Put on Your Red Shoes: Cosmopolitanism, Translation and Intan Paramaditha’s “Gentayangan” Stephen Epstein Victoria University of Wellington
Similar to Laksmi Pamuntjak’s Amba (The Question of Red) (2012) and Leila Chudori’s Home (2012), also discussed in this panel, Intan Paramaditha's novel Gentayangan: Pilih Sendiri Petualangan Sepatu Merahmu (The Wandering: Choose Your Own Red Shoe Adventure), the winner of Tempo’s 2017 award for best piece of prose fiction, explores themes of displacement and cosmopolitanism from an Indonesian perspective. More insistently, however, the text deploys the international settings of its sophisticated, sarcastic and ultimately sensitive “choose-your-own adventure” format to treat the transgressive and nomadic freedom of its protagonist, gifted with a pair of magical shoes by the devil, as blessing and curse. Nonetheless, the text’s second-person voice invites the reader to sympathise and, indeed, to become this “disobedient woman,” a figure that is the hallmark of Intan Paramaditha’s fiction. What does this act of direct involvement mean for the act of translation? In this paper, I offer an in-depth reading of this remarkable text and explore the challenges and rewards of bringing it into English (forthcoming in February 2020 with Harvill Secker), amidst increasing attempts to draw international attention to Indonesian literature. In particular, I address the processes through which respectful translation and collaboration with the author seek to mirror aspects of the novel itself.
In recent years, Indonesian literature has become increasingly implicated in global consciousness: a growing international awareness of the nation's literary riches led to Indonesia becoming the Guest of Honour at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair and the Market Focus country at the 2019 London Book Fair. In 2016, Eka Kurniawan became the first Indonesian author to be nominated for the Man Booker International Prize for Man Tiger (Lelaki Harimau). Translation grants under the auspices of the National Book Committee of the Ministry of Education and Culture seek to foster the production of work that reaches foreign audiences and implicitly serve as a tool of soft power as Indonesian actors strive to put themselves “on the map”.
Simultaneously, local productions draw on settings that move beyond the nation's borders to enhance a global imagination among Indonesian readers: Islamic popular literature encourages the envisioning of participation in a wider realm of fellow believers; the “Metropop” of Ilana Tan's Seasons series provides romantic global escape, while Intan Paramaditha's far more sophisticated choose-your-own adventure novel Gentayangan (The Wandering), the winner of Tempo's 2017 award for best piece of prose fiction, uses international settings to explore themes of cosmopolitanism, displacement, nomadism, and transgression. In this panel, presenters will engage with the complexities of these trends to consider the impact of global imaginings upon Indonesia, how writers and institutions situate themselves in a worldwide landscape, and how national and transnational forces structure the global circulation of Indonesian literature.