INDONESIAN LITERATURE

INDONESIAN LITERATURE

Indonesia has created many celebrated authors. There has also been a long tradition, particularly among ethnically Malay populations, of impromptu, interactive, verbal composition of poetry referred to as the ‘pantun’. There is a long Javanese tradition of the poet as a "voice on the wind," a critic of authority. During the Suharto era, poets and playwrights had works banned, among them W. S. Rendra whose plays were not allowed in Jakarta.Pramoedya Ananta Toer, a well-known author won the Magsaysay Award and was considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Indonesia's literary legacy includes centuries-old palm, bamboo, and other fiber manuscripts from several literate peoples, such as the Malay, Javanese, Balinese, Buginese, Rejang, and Batak. The fourteenth century Nagarakrtagama is a lengthy poem praising King Hayam Wuruk and describing the life and social structure of his kingdom, Majapahit. The I La Galigo of the Bugis, which traces the adventures of their culture hero, Sawerigading, is one of the world's longest epic poems. [Source: everyculture.com]

Although the culture of India, largely embodied in insular Southeast Asia with the Sanskrit language and the Hindu and Buddhist religions, was eagerly grasped by the elite of the existing society, typically Indian concepts, such as caste and the inferior status of women, appear to have made little or no headway against existing Indonesian traditions. Nowhere was Indian civilization accepted without change; rather, the more elaborate Indian religious forms and linguistic terminology were used to refine and clothe indigenous concepts. In Java even these external forms of Indian origin were transformed into distinctively Indonesian shapes. The tradition of plays using Javanese shadow puppets (wayang), the origins of which may date to the neolithic age, was brought to a new level of sophistication in portraying complex Hindu dramas (lakon) during the period of Indianization. Even later Islam which forsakes pictorial representations of human brings, brought new developments to the wayang tradition through numerous refinements in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. [Source: Library of Congress]

The Javanese has a literary history dating back to the 8th century. Many of their folk stories are based on Hindu stories from India. During the Medang or Mataram Kingdom—a Javanese Hindu–Buddhist kingdom that flourished between the 8th and 10th centuries in Central Java, and later in East Java—there was blossoming of art, culture and literature, mainly through the translation of Hindu-Buddhist sacred texts and the transmission and adaptation of Hindu-Buddhist ideas. The bas-relief narration of the Hindu epic Ramayana was carved on the wall of Prambanan Temple. During this period, the Kakawin Ramayana, an old Javanese rendering was written. This Kakawin Ramayana, also called the Yogesvara Ramayana, is attributed to the scribe Yogesvara circa the 9th century CE, who was employed in the court of the Medang in Central Java. It has 2774 stanzas in the manipravala style, a mixture of Sanskrit and archaic Javanese prose. The most influential version of the Ramayana is the Ravanavadham of Bhatti, popularly known as Bhattikavya. The Javanese Ramayana differs markedly from the original Hindu. [Source: metapedia.org]

“When Islam started to spread across the islands of Indonesia in the 12th century, it was also bringing new kinds of cultural influences from the Islamic world, from Arab culture, Persia and Islamic West India. They included literature, types of instruments, forms of music, styles of recitation of holy texts, and also some forms of dance. In many cases these new elements were quickly localised and they intermingled with earlier animistic and Hindu-Buddhist elements. A good example is wayang golek rod puppet theatre, which has its roots firmly in the older wayang kulit shadow theatre that mainly deals with Hindu mythology. Wayang golek, however, takes its main plot material from the Islamic Menak stories. A similar kind of fusion of cultural layers can be recognised in numerous Indonesian traditions. **

See Separate Articles on INDONESIAN FOLK STORIES, PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER and RIMBAUD IN INDONESIA

Majapahit Literature and the Nagarakertagama

During the Majapahit period, in the 13th–15th centuries, the East Javanese culture reached its zenith. The second half of the 14th century in particular saw the flourishing of both literature and architecture. Majapahit’s writers continued the developments in literature and wayang (shadow puppetry) begun in the Kediri period. The best-known work today, Mpu Prapañca’s Desawarnaña, often referred to as Nāgarakertāgama, composed in 1365, which provides us with an unusually detailed view of daily life in the kingdom’s central provinces. Many other classic works also date from this period, including the famous Panji tales, popular romances based on the history of eastern Java that were loved and borrowed by storytellers as far away as Thailand and Cambodia. Many of Majapahit’s administrative practices and laws governing trade were admired and later imitated elsewhere, even by fledgling powers seeking independence from Javanese imperial control. [Source: Library of Congress]

"Negara Kertagama," by the famous Javanese author Prapancha (1335-1380) was written during this golden period of Majapahit, when many literary works were produced. Parts of the book described the diplomatic and economic ties between Majapahit and numerous Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, Thailand, Tonkin, Annam, Kampuchea and even India and China. Other works in Kawi, the old Javanese language, were "Pararaton," "Arjuna Wiwaha," "Ramayana," and "Sarasa Muschaya." In modern times, these works were later translated into modern European languages for educational purposes. [Source: ancientworlds.net]

A description of the Majapahit capital from the Old Javanese epic poem Nagarakertagama goes: "Of all the buildings, none lack pillars, bearing fine carvings and coloured" [Within the wall compounds] "there were elegant pavilions roofed with aren fibre, like the scene in a painting... The petals of the katangga were sprinkled over the roofs for they had fallen in the wind. The roofs were like maidens with flowers arranged in their hair, delighting those who saw them".

Literature from the Dutch Period in Indonesia

In colonial times some literature was published in regional languages, the most being in Javanese, but this was stopped after Indonesian independence. The earliest official publishing house for Indonesian literature is Balai Pustaka, founded in Batavia in 1917. National culture was expressed and, in some ways formed, through spoken Malay-Indonesian (understood by many people) and newspapers, pamphlets, poetry, novels, and short stories for those who could read. [Source: everyculture.com]

The literature on Dutch expansion and the Netherlands East Indies is extensive. The most comprehensive work on the Cultivation System is perhaps Robert E. Elson’s Village Java under the Cultivation System. The 1860 novel Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli, penname of Eduard Douwes Dekker, is still captivating reading. It w as polemic against injustice by Dutch colonist in Java in the 1850s. A History of Modern Indonesia by Adrian Vickers begins its coverage with the late nineteenth century, and the collection of papers edited by Robert B. Cribb in The Late Colonial State in Indonesia is very useful. *

Modern Literature in Indonesia

Modern Indonesian literature got its start with language unification efforts in 1928 and underwent considerable development before the war, receiving further impetus under Japanese auspices. Revolutionary (or traditional) Indonesian themes were employed in drama, films, and art, and hated symbols of Dutch imperial control were swept away.

Michael J. Ybarra wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Indonesia is one of the world's largest countries, but it's also a relatively young one. When the Indonesian republic was born in 1949, after three centuries of Dutch colonialism, language was one forge of nationalism. The new country stretched from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, encompassing 17,000 islands. The archipelago was also a riot of languages with some 300 tongues spoken. The literary tradition was more oral than written, everything from the spoken word epics of the Kalimantan Dayaks in Borneo to Javanese court songs. The new government declared Bahasa Indonesia (a dialect of Malay) the national language. "Indonesia owes its identity to the Indonesian language," says novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer. [Source: Michael J. Ybarra, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2004]

By the time of independence, literary production was not great, but it has grown considerably since the 1950s. The literary tradition is now rich, but one should note that reading for pleasure or enlightenment is not yet part of the culture of average urban Indonesians and plays little if any part in the life of village people. Indonesia has made literacy and widespread elementary education a major effort of the nation, but in many rural parts of the country functional literacy is limited. For students to own many books is not common; universities are still oriented toward lecture notes rather than student reading; and libraries are poorly stocked. [Source: everyculture.com]

Modern Writers and Books in Indonesia

In the conflict between left-and right-wing politics of the 1950s and early 1960s, organizations of authors were drawn into the fray. In the anticommunist purges of the late 1960s, some writers who had participated in left-wing organizations were imprisoned. The most famous is Pramoedya Ananta Toer, a nationalist who had also been imprisoned by the Dutch from 1947 to 1949. He composed books as stories told to fellow prisoners in exile on the island of Buru from 1965 to 1979. He was released from Buru and settled in Jakarta, but remained under city arrest. Four of his novels, the Buru Quartet , published between 1980 and 1988 in Indonesian, are rich documentaries of life in turn-of-the-century colonial Java. They were banned in Indonesia during the New Order. Pram (as he is commonly known, rhyming with Tom) received a PEN Freedom-to-Write Award in 1988 and a Magsaysay Award in 1995. In English translation, the Buru Quartet received critical acclaim, and after the end of the New Order in 1999, Pram made a tour of the United States. He is the only Indonesian novelist to have received such acclaim overseas. [Source: everyculture.com]

Famous writers and intellectuals include: W. S. Rendra, major poet and playwright who achieved fame during the New Order for taking stands against the government; Akhdiat Miharja, a key figure in literature during the 1940s and 1950s; Des Alwi, one of the last figures of the revolutionary period (he was the adopted son of Mohammad Hatta and a close associate of Sutan Syahrir), and later diplomat and writer; and Rosihan Anwar, legendary reporter, columnist, and public intellectual. Chairil Anwar was also an important figure in the literature world and a member of the Generation 45 group of authors who were active in the Indonesian independence movement. [Source: Library of Congress, August 2, 2011 William H. Frederick]

Some well known Indonesian writers set their stories in fantasy words. Others have used the Dutch period to criticize the Sukarno and Suharto eras. The Dancer by Ahmad Tohari was banned under Suharto. It was about village life during the massacre in the 1860s. It paints an unflattering picture of the military. Mochtar Lubis is another highly regarded Indonesian writer. His most well known novel, Twilight in Jakarta, examines corruption and the problems of the poor in 1950s Jakarta. This book too was banned and Lubis was jailed. Fira Basuki wrote the trilogy Jendala-Jendala (“The Windows”), Pintu (“The Door”) and Atap (“The Roof”). Dew Lestari is a singer who wrote the popular novel Supernova.

See Separate Article on Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Lack of English Translations and Interest in Indonesian Literature

Michael J. Ybarra wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In 1986 the king of Thailand gave an award to Indonesian poet Sapardi Djoko Damono for his contributions to Indonesia's literature. Damono, in turn, wanted to hand out some of his verse when he accepted the award in Bangkok. The only problem was Damono's work had never been translated into another language. So the poet asked his friend John McGlynn to prepare a selection in English, the lingua franca of Southeast Asia. For McGlynn, an American translator living in Jakarta, it was a flashback to when he started studying the Indonesian language in college a decade earlier. "It was ridiculous," he says. "I had studied Japanese and Chinese literature in translation, but for Indonesian there were less than five books in translation." [Source: Michael J. Ybarra, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2004 *|*]

“Indonesia’s great writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer said, "A translated book is more important than a diplomat." McGlynn concurs. "Before Lontar there was no possibility of teaching Indonesia literature abroad, of finding out aspects of Indonesian culture beyond politics or economics," he says. "I want people to understand the Indonesia I care about. My passion is for Indonesia more than Indonesian literature, but I do feel that only through arts and culture can you understand another culture." *|*

“It was puppets, not books, that first brought McGlynn to Indonesia. A theater major from the University of Wisconsin, McGlynn came to Indonesia in 1976 to study wayang kulit, the famous shadow puppet theater. He had begun studying the language in Wisconsin and continued at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. His interest in puppets waned as he began to learn about the country's literature. "At first, literature was only a tool to learn the language," he says. "I asked my professor to set up a course to study Indonesian literature. I was the only student. I wasn't truly viewing it as literature. I wanted a greater understanding of the culture. Then I found a lot of gems. It was only after a few years that I got a calling, a mission." *|*

“McGlynn returned to the U.S. long enough to earn a master's at the University of Michigan in 1981. "I think it was the first degree in Indonesian literature in the U.S.," he says. Over the last two decades some 20 American universities have added the teaching of Indonesian literature, usually under the auspices of Southeast Asian studies (the topic is more popular in Australia). *|*

“Even in Indonesia the country's literature is not exactly a priority. "English is a mandatory subject in school," McGlynn says. "Indonesian literature is not." Lontar Executive Director Adila Suwarno said, "I'm Indonesian, but I'm disappointed there are not many Indonesians that realize how important it is to preserve our culture. But I understand that. A country like ours has to feed and house people first. It's easier to collect funding for poverty. This is too sophisticated."” *|*

Effort to Get Indonesian Literature Translated to English

Michael J. Ybarra wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “McGlynn, along with Damono and several other Indonesian writers, McGlynn formed an organization to translate and promote the largely unknown literature from the world's fourth most populous nation. In 1988 the Lontar Foundation was born; its first publication was a collection of Damono's work called "Suddenly the Night." Since then the foundation has published scores of books and branched out into documenting some of the archipelago's cultural traditions, such as regional theater and dance, which are threatened by the irresistible pull of globalization. "Until Lontar was established, people abroad didn't look at Indonesian literature as literature," McGlynn says. "Whenever Indonesia appears in a newspaper it's because of a disaster. I wanted to create a more accurate picture. Not necessarily a better picture but a more balanced one." [Source: Michael J. Ybarra, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2004 *|*]

“Professor Hendrik Maier, an expert on Malay literature who teaches in the new Southeast Asian studies program at UC Riverside, agrees that the foundation has made the study of Indonesian writing possible in the English-speaking world. "Lontar made a lot of things accessible in good translations," he says. "At last we have these books in English. It's also good for the self-confidence of the Indonesians; they're proud that they get their place in the world." *|*

“The idea for Lontar, McGlynn says, came from an Indian organization called the Seagull Foundation that was formed in 1987 to promote South Asian arts. The name Lontar refers to the palm-leaf manuscripts that record the archipelago's oldest writing. For the first several years, McGlynn and the other staff worked for free. McGlynn earned his living by translating Indonesian economic journals into English. Today, Lontar employs 25 people, has its own website (www.lontar.org) and operates on an annual budget of about $100,000. McGlynn is the director of publications. About a third of the foundation's revenue comes from publishing, another third from the sale of note cards and calendar reproductions of beautiful illustrated manuscripts. The rest comes from donors such as the Ford Foundation and the Luce Foundation. *|*

“Lontar has published 40 books. The titles don't exactly have bestseller written all over them: There's a four-volume history of Indonesian theater, a six-volume collection of Javanese literature, an oral history from survivors of the bloody anti-communist purge of the 1960s, the first history of Indonesian cinema and a boxed set of bilingual theater texts. After Sept. 11, Lontar put out a volume called "Manhattan Sonnet," which featured prose and poetry by 24 Indonesian writers who had lived in New York or traveled in the U.S. "We want to distribute more aggressively to schools around the world," Suwarno says. "Our educational system is terrible. In our small world we need information for Indonesian students." *|*

“Lontar is also preserving other aspects of the country's culture with a series of films, ranging from interviews with writers such as Toer and Damono to Balinese shadow puppet performances. The foundation also houses a library stuffed with rare books, old photographs, slides of manuscripts and performances. "Our mission is to promote Indonesia through literature," Suwarno says. "I really hope we become one of the biggest libraries of information in Indonesia that everyone will be able to access. It's a long-term project." *|*

Saman, Ayu Utami and Sex

The most talked about book in Indonesia in the 1990s was Saman, a novella by an unknown 27-year-old woman named Ayu Utami. The book was a success because it dealt with subjects that until that time had been taboo: political, repression, prejudice towards the Chinese, and premarital sex. An American writer based in Jakarta told the International Herald Tribune, "That book was a whirlwind. No one had talked about politics like that before, or, for that matter, about sex like that before."

The story is about a Catholic priest and his relationship with four former female students, one of whom he has a sexual affair with. Other characters include Christian Chinese, political activists and a rubber tapper. The description of the sex scenes involving the priest are quite graphic, especially by Indonesian standards.

Utami herself is a Catholic, who was born in 1960 and grew up in Bogor, near Jakarta. She worked as a journalist until she was fired in 1994 for working with an anti-Suharto group called the Association of Independent Journalists. She also wrote Larung and Sex, Sketches and Stories and cites the Bible as an early inspiration.

"Saman" was published two weeks before Suharto's fall. Newsweek reported: “Set during his oppressive regime, the novel raised eyebrows mainly for touching on both religious and sexual matters: the main character has an affair with a Catholic priest. Drawing skillfully on both Indonesian slang and literary allegory, "Saman" won the prestigious Jakarta Arts Council competition for new novels and quickly went on to sell 55,000 copies--a good run in Indonesia. [Source: Peter Janssen, Newsweek, October 19, 2003 <+>]

After the release of Sex, Sketches and Stories, Peter Janssen wrote in Newsweek, “At the dimly lit Sudirman International Cafe, the literati have gathered to drink beer, smoke cigarettes and listen to a young woman talk about sex. The scene wouldn't be notable in most cities, but this is Jakarta, capital of the world's most populous Muslim country. Ayu Utami, 35, a slender Javanese beauty with sharp features and an open smile, is launching her newest book, a collection of essays entitled "Sex, Sketches and Stories." Sporting a skintight top, Utami deftly fields questions on such topics as marriage, infidelity and sexual liberation. "People think of free sex as something done by people who aren't married, but actually free sex is something done by married people," says Utami to shouts of approval. "I love you!" yells one young woman, hoisting a beer. “ <+>

Sastra wangi: Indonesia's Sexy Feminist Literary Movement

Ayu Utami and her 1998 novel Saman is noted as starting the sastra wangi movement Sastra wangi (also spelled sastrawangi; literally, "fragrant literature") is a label given to a new body of Indonesian literature written by young, urban Indonesian women who take on controversial issues such as politics, religion and sexuality. The controversial label "sastra wangi" originated among predominantly male critics in the early 2000s to categorize such young, female writers as Ayu Utami, Dewi Lestari, Fira Basuki and Djenar Maesa Ayu. Utamis said, "There’s always a tendency to categorize literary work, and sastra wangi is one such category ... The media came up with [the name] because we weren’t the typical writers who used to lead the local literary scene. Beyond that, I don’t know the meaning or significance of sastra wangi." [Source: Wikipedia +]

Peter Janssen wrote in Newsweek, “Since the downfall of the autocratic President Suharto five years ago, Indonesia has undergone plenty of upheaval: three presidents, innumerable riots and demonstrations, bloody sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians. Far less noticed has been the rise of provocative Indonesian literature, thanks largely to a group of bright, bold, attractive, media-savvy young women who are willing to take on the subject of sex. Their growing body of work has been lumped under the label sastra wangi--literally, "fragrant literature"--a somewhat derogatory term that has nonetheless stuck and helped the movement catch on. "There is a newfound freedom now," says Richard Oh, owner of the QB World Book chain. "These writers aren't afraid to say anything. This is the first new trend in Indonesian literature for ages and ages." [Source: Peter Janssen, Newsweek, October 19, 2003 <+>]

Utami launched the movement with her first novel, "Saman," two weeks before Suharto's fall. “A succession of women writers quickly followed, each pushing the boundaries of the one who came before. In Dewi Lestari's wildly popular first novel, "Supernova," the main characters include a gay couple and a prostitute. Djenar Maesa Ayu published a book of prize-winning short stories, including one entitled "Nursing From Daddy," in which she expresses a young woman's rejection of the traditional place of women in society through the metaphor of her suckling her father's penis instead of her mother's breast. And Dinar Rahayu, who wears the traditional Muslim hijab scarf in public, wrote about sadomasochism and transsexuality in her first book, "Ode to Leopold von Sacher Masoch." Soon after it was published, she resigned her position as a chemistry teacher at a progressive, privately run Muslim high school. But like most of her peers, she made it onto Indonesia's top-10 best-seller lists. <+>

Some believe the sastra wangi writers are merely bringing to light the country's natural lustiness. "We Indonesians are a raunchy lot," says Julia Suryakusmana, academic, writer, publisher and self-proclaimed feminist. "We've got our own traditional culture that is very sexual. It's just that there is a schizophrenia between historical reality and what is called 'Eastern' values." That schizophrenia reached new heights under Suharto's long rule, from 1966 to 1998. After allowing an initial period of openness, in the early 1970s Suharto cracked down hard on all forms of critical and creative thinking. "For a period of about 25 years there was a lost generation in terms of Indonesian literature, when writers wrote more and more obliquely," says John McGlynn, director of publications at the Lontar Foundation, a nonprofit organization that translates Indonesian literature into English. "The refreshing thing--not just about the women writers but the whole generation of new writers--is they are reclaiming their voice." <+>

“So far, that voice is in no danger of being silenced. Indonesia's Muslim leaders, who have been waging strict campaigns against pornography and suggestive dance shows on TV, have left the sastra wangi set alone. That may have less to do with the message than the medium; since most Indonesians don't read, literature is not deemed as dangerous as other media. "The religious establishment don't pay attention to art and literature because the impact of literature is limited," says Nirwan Derwanto, former editor of the respected journal Kalam. "One of the greatest things about the sastra wangi movement is, it is bringing people to literature." The hordes of women clamoring for Utami to sign copies of "Sex, Sketches and Stories" is clear proof of that. <+>

A. Junaidi and Suryakusuma wrote in The Jakarta Post that sastra wangi writers have several things in common. The works tend to be launched in cafes and bookstores, with celebrities and reporters invited. The writers themselves are younger women, generally entering the industry around the age of 30, and often physically attractive. The works usually deal openly with sexuality, traditionally a taboo subject in Indonesian women's literature. This includes homosexuality. Suryakusuma notes that the traditional patriarchal view of sex, with the man as the subject and woman as the object, is reversed in these works, with women aggressively seeking and enjoying sex. The diction can be explicit, with terms such as 'penis' and 'vagina' being common. The diction and subject matter are often "shocking". Although works from a female perspective have been common in Indonesian literature, with works by Nh. Dini from the 1970s including references to sexuality, they were generally within the realm of social mores; the sastra wangi movement tends to go against these mores. +

Indonesia’s Twelve-Year-Old Novelist

In 2011, Deanna Ramsay wrote in the Jakarta Post, “A new addition to Indonesia’s cohort of novelists has just emerged. Her name is Raisa Affandi, and she is just 11 years old. Raisa’s first novel was published a little over a week ago. Titled Mimi Bo and the Missing Diary, the exuberant and inventive work is set in a sometimes dreamlike fantasyland. One part Harry Potter for its school setting amidst student intrigue, one part Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for its obsession with sweets and one part surrealist illusion a la the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, Mimi Bo and the Missing Diary — at 195 pages — is a remarkable achievement for someone so young. And, the novel was written in English. [Source: Deanna Ramsay, Jakarta Post, March 14, 2011 ==]

“After spending some time with Raisa it is clear she is passionate about reading and writing, her room filled with books and remnants of her own compositions. When asked what had motivated her to embark upon writing a novel, Raisa said she was inspired by her younger sister Kyla. Raisa started writing Mimi Bo and the Missing Diary in 2008 right after Kyla was born and based the main character, Mimi Bo, on her beloved sister. Mimi Bo in the novel is a precocious child with a mind advanced well beyond her 3 months. As Raisa herself describes the work, “I just wanted to make a book about babies because I knew the pictures would be cute because babies are cute.” ==

“But, the work is not just about babies; it is about children with an awareness of the world around them that is much deeper than the adults in the story imagine. For example, the babies cleverly use crying as a tactic to achieve other ends. When asked about the process of novel writing, which took her about a year, Raisa said, “At first I had no idea what the story was going to be about except there were these babies who were special at this special school. Then I just started adding more ideas and more ideas until the end.” ==

“The book, adorned with vibrant watercolor drawings, is set at a school that is a virtual paradise for infants (and adults for that matter), featuring storks as public transportation, a rainbow club that meets during storms, an array of decadent sweet things to eat and a baby disco. There is also a mystery involving, as the title connotes, a missing diary, together with lively descriptions of sites borne out of a child’s vivid imagination: healthy food that tastes likes strawberry ice cream, a door that leads to the tops of pillowy clouds and chocolate fountains and lemonade swimming pools. ==

“Raisa’s parents said at first they were not even aware that she was writing a book until one day they saw her busily, and happily, typing away on the computer and asked her what she was doing. Now, Raisa says she imagines her initial work as part of a series, each book set in the following month of the school year. She has almost completed book two, which takes a somewhat different turn, featuring “a monster at the school [that] turns out to be a good person”, secret agents and various sleuthing activities. She also invented a baby language for her book, Baahian, citing again her little sister’s inspiration. Clearly, Raisa’s interest lies in language; she is fluent in both English and Indonesian.

“Raisa spent four of her formative years living in Cambridge, England, while her father worked on his PhD and her mother an M.A., and English is essentially her first language. Currently living in Jakarta and attending an international school with instruction in both Indonesian and English, Raisa still prefers to read English-language books, saying she especially enjoys reading the Harry Potter series, The Necromancer and horror stories or “anything creepy”.

Her parents also say that she will even pick up their books and peruse them, whether a text on economics or a work on probability theory.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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