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October 9–November 16, 2017: Home for Seven Weeks

This year’s trip home to Indonesia began with a totally unexpected, extremely generous offer from Dr. Enny Anggraini — chair of the 5th Literary Studies Conference, hosted by the Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta on October 12 and 13, 2017 — to deliver a keynote based on my thoughts and experiences as an Indonesian diasporan author and publisher.

I folded my fear of losing our Indonesian language not only into my keynote, but also into the theme of this year’s talks and the translation workshop I held. As it turned out, “From immigrant to diasporan, a homecoming of the heart,” gave me the opportunity to address my concerns and “bring home” several diaspora voices, ranging from poetry, novels, short stories, and children’s books to cookbooks. It was good to see a healthy interest in the divergent material, back home.

During the seven weeks I spent traveling from Yogyakarta to Semarang, Salatiga, Surabaya, Bandung, and Jakarta, I had ample opportunity to share my concerns regarding the rapid deterioration of our Indonesian language, not only due to the tremendous influx of English words that we are daily exposed to, but, even more, due to the sad fact that we Indonesians, as a nation, feel compelled to show a certain level of education by sandwiching English words between proper Indonesian prefixes and suffixes. It was, in a sense, rather mind-blowing to notice how much people were unaware of how this behavior butchers our own language.

I was grateful to be given the opportunity to share with our youth and educators my need to create a new awareness regarding the place of language in the realm of nationality, in the true sense of the word, and in the spirit of the years of the revolution, when our first president, Soekarno, called our nation to unite, under one flag, using one language: the Indonesian flag and the Indonesian language.

Hopefully, the seeds I tried to sow regarding active support for Indonesian studies and literature by offering a solid educational basis for our future authors, translators, and literary critics, will germinate. New contacts and rekindled relationships give me the courage to continue trying to share our colorful history and rich culture with the American reader through English language translations of the original work.

Despite a packed work agenda, there was time to enjoy reconnecting with old friends and visiting places I relate to as “home.”

The following photographs will give you a glimpse of my seven, wonderful weeks home. Unfortunately, I caught a very bad cold on the plane, hence this tardy posting.


Yogyakarta – October 10–19, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017: At The 5th Literary Studies Conference, hosted by the Sanata Dharma University, I presented, “From immigrant to diasporan, a homecoming of the heart.”


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…is a homecoming of the heart enough to earn back the privilege of being considered a part of the Indonesian population?


Friday, October 13, 2017: Dalang Publishing was given the opportunity to present, “The importance of literary translation” as a panel that represented each part of the publications of the original and translated work. We featured our latest publication, Maya Denisa Saputra’s English translation of Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono, along with the original novel, published by Penerbit Ombak.


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Translations of novels enable readers around the world to enjoy the work of writers of different countries and, not only become privy to these writers’ techniques, but also get a glimpse into the souls of the individuals who the story is written about.


Kartika Nurul Nugrahini from Penerbit Ombak: In our opinion, the success of a publication depends on the impact it has on its readers. In order to share information or make cultural exchanges, translation is almost a necessity.

Junaedi Setiyono: I write historical fiction because I not only want to present the beauty of language in the form of a story, but I also want my readers to appreciate what happened to their ancestors, when preparing for their own future.

Maya Denisa Saputra: I hope that my translations will serve as a cultural connector of the Eastern and Western worlds by bringing the culture of Indonesia to Western readers.

 Ari J. Adipurwawidjana, literary critic: Work that can help us, as a nation, recover from the historical and cultural amnesia we are suffering from is worthy of a translation.


After the presentations, Jun and Maya were busy signing copies of Dasamuka.


The last session of the conference was a panel discussion moderated by Elisabeth Arti Wulandari from the Sanata Dharma University between delegates of the University of San Tomas, in the Philipines, Maria Luisa Torres Reyes and Joyce Arriola,  Inseop Shin from the Konkuk University in Korea, and myself.


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Monday, October 16, 2017: Dalang presented at the Sanata Dharma University: “Peran terjemahan dalam menduniakan sastra Indonesia,” an open lecture and panel discussion on the role of translation in bringing Indonesian literature to the world stage, followed by a book presentation of Dasamuka.

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Free time in Yogya was spent retracing Dasamuka’s steps and rekindling old friendships.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2017: “Mengangkat sastra Indonesia ke panggung dunia melalui penerjemahan,” an open lecture regarding translation, held at the Universitas Muhammadiyah in Purworedjo.


It is impossible to be a translator without first mastering one’s own language.


Semarang and Salatiga – October 19–25, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017: Karangturi hosted “Mencari jalan untuk meningkatkan mutu karya penulis Indonesia di masa depan,” a discussion regarding ways to raise the quality of writing, held with about 40 teachers from grade, middle, and high schools.


The basis of any writing is language. It is imperative that an author, translator, and publisher master the languages they are working in. Language gives us a voice. Without a voice, we will no longer be.


No trip home would be complete without spending a few days at my friends Lisa and Harjanto Halim’s house and sharing a meal with Inge Widjajanti and her husband.



The highlight of every trip to Indonesia is the time spent “home on the ranch” at Havana Horses.



Surabaya – October 26–November 1, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017: “The importance of literary translation,” a translation workshop hosted by the English Department of Petra University.


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Local color and subtle, cultural, eccentric nuances are often lost when a translation has been edited by an editor who only has a mastery of the target language.


It’s always fun to share a meal with old friends.

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Bandung – November 1–8, 2017

Friday, November 2, 2017: Padjadjaran University hosted an open lecture, “Peran bahasa dalam perjalanan rohani dari perantau menjadi diaspora,” followed by an enacting of excerpts from Dasamuka by Junaedi Setiyono, Dalang’s latest publication, and student discussions of Potions and Paper Cranes, the English language translation of Perempuan Kembang Jepun by Lan Fang and my novel, Only A Girl. The background of the room provided by the university is my favorite! (see photo).

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As an Indonesian diasporan, I consider it my duty to protect and honor the Indonesian language.


In Bandung I enjoyed Pak Ari’s gracious hospitality



Jakarta – November 9–16, 2017

November 13, 2017: “A seminar on language and literature” (“Seminar nasional bahasa dan sastra”), held by Universitas Pamulang.


It is sad that, at this moment, we as a nation, who have successfully reclaimed our independence, now voluntarily subject ourselves to enslavement and domination by everything Western to the point that we even sacrifice our language by allowing the heavy infiltration of the English language.

A highlight of this event was the student presentation of a poem by Muhammad Wildan, a docent at the Faculty of Indonesian Literature at Pamulang, titled, “Negeriku” – “My Country” — of which I quote in closing:

My Country-

Can you try

Telling me

What, exactly, is happening to you,

My dear country…



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