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Words Without Borders is an inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize winner!

August 2015

Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia

Image: Heri Dono, "Shooting Nose,” 2014 83x138 cm, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

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.


Book Reviews

Anne Garréta’s “Sphinx”

Reviewed by Jane Yong Kim

Yoss’s “A Planet for Rent”

Reviewed by Rosie Clarke

Sergio Pitol’s “The Journey”

Reviewed by Anne Posten

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