Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fragrant Fiction

Lydia beat me to comment on a piece in the Star by Lee Tse Ling about the phenomena known as chick lit. (How nice it is to see some intelligent and intelligible comment about books on the pages of the paper - I just hope there will be more!)

Wondered though if you had come across (what is often said to be - I'm careful here) Indonesian equivalent of chick lit, labelled Sastra Wangi or Fragrant Literature by the Indonesian press? The fragrant part comes from the fact that these writers just happen to be young and beautiful. It's a label though that the writers themselves understandably shrug off as a cynical marketing ploy, a dismissal of the value of their work.

Writers Ayu Utami (who incidentally was one of the speakers at the KL Litfest), Dewi Lestari, (left) Djenar Mahesa Ayu and Nova Riyanti Yusuf (right) are enormously popular in Indonesia, their works reflect changing culture and aspirations and a new openness about sex - a taboo subject for the many in Indonesia's conservative society.

This isn't a literature to be dismissed lightly. As Inside Indonesia wrote of Ayu Utami's Saman:
Saman stands out amongst recent Indonesian fiction. Ayu's confident storytelling technique adequately carries the weight of a broad thematic scope, highlighting the full complexity of previously shunned issues such as female sexuality and the struggle between personal faith and political action.
Such a shame it is that although Malaysia and Indonesia are next-door neighbours, Indonesian literature doesn't find it's way over here. I'm still waiting to read Ayu's books ...

One wonders too why there isn't really an equivalent to Sastera Wangi here. Are Malaysian women less angry? Less concerned with putting their thoughts into fiction? Do they look over their shoulders more in case they offend the staus quo?

Malaysia has the romance novel. We should be content with that.

Let's all live happily ever after and not rock the boat.

More about Sastra Wangi from the BBC.

Related Post:

So You Want to Write Chick Lit? (8/10/05)


Lotus Reads said...

Only yesterday I e-mailed an Indonesian friend to seek her recommendations on contemporary Indonesian women writers, so you can imagine my delight when I arrive at your blog today and voila your post tells me all I need to know!

However, it is disappointing to know that Indonesian lit. is not avaiable in Malaysia. I'm hoping it's available on Amazon? Probably not, but I'll check.

bibliobibuli said...

Lotus reads - this is certainly a starting point (for me too) ... but i don't know how much, if anything has been translated into English. can anyone tell us?

Sufian said...

Ayu Utami's Saman has been translated. Go here:

scroll down until you see the book with an ugly ugly cover.

I like Saman. But her novel after that Larung is not quite as good. Her collection of essays sucks and is like, so chick lit it's not funny.

I prefer Dee (Dewi Lestari). But I can't seem to get anyone to buy me her third book.

[p.s. Dee is a pop star first, before becoming a famous writer]

bibliobibuli said...

thanks a lot for this info sufian - it was an interesting review

and yes, it's on amazon

Lotus Reads said...

Excellent! Thanks Sharon and sufian.

The Great Swifty said...

Yo Sharon, a defense for fanfiction written by an editor of Tor Books (a scifi publisher) has just been featured by BoingBoing. Obviously, this came out after Geraldine won her Pulitzer for March. Guess the whole issue's spreading. It's an interesting read.

The Great Swifty said...

Right, just to get back to topic. Mmm, Ayu's pretty.

bibliobibuli said...

lotus reads - you're welcome ... but searching for saman on amazon meant i ended up one-clicking it ... i'm going to have to stop blogging books because it's getting too expensive

swifty - that was an interesting piece ... i wasn't v. clued up on fanfiction before ... are you writing it?

yeah, ayu's pretty ... you should have been here for the litfest!

Lydia Teh said...

Sharon, People like to pigeon-hole. Without the terms chicklit and sastera wangi, they'd be lumped under general fiction which is too ho-hum.

Our romance novel phenomeon, I've just thought of a name for it - keropok fiction. It's light and nice for a snack but too much of it will put you off your main meals.

Kak Chik said...

(This is pretty petty...)

Talking about chic lit, I have a geek friend who didnt know that such a genre even existed. And on the other hand, I have my husband who is a self-professed geek who looooooovessssssssss dramatized chic lit.

That's just I said...pretty petty.

The Great Swifty said...

Fanfiction? I used to write them back when I was a teen, but officially retired from it last July so that I can work on my actual writing and most of all, filmmaking. But well, the largest fanfiction database (not necessarily the best) is Worth a look. You'll be traumatized.

Anonymous said...

Now we're getting somewhere. But can she write ?