At this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, which runs from Oct. 18–23, Indonesia will showcase LitRI — a translation funding program for foreign publishers, intended to foster translation of Indonesian literature and other works into foreign languages. (Reuters Photo/Ralph Orlowski)

Banking on Books, Indonesia at Frankfurt Book Fair 2016


OCTOBER 03, 2016

The conversation continues... From films to food, a rich program accompanies the return of Indonesian books to the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair.

With a humbler budget compared to last year when Indonesia was a guest-of-honor country at the book fair, resiliency and creativity are key words for the country's National Book Committee (KBN), which was established earlier this year. This year alone, the KBN has staged successful book exhibitions at the Bologna, London and Beijing international book fairs. With support from the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf), the committee has proved that Indonesian literature, comics, children's and nonfiction books do have an audience abroad — and great potential for the future.

Indonesia's successful presence as guest of honor at the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair, where the country wowed tens of thousands of visitors with its theme of "17,000 Islands of Imagination," has fostered the country's publishing industry and increased motivation to promote its literature abroad. Foreign interest in the translation rights to more than 400 Indonesian titles last year brought about a change of mindset and local publishers are now exercising much greater confidence in selling book rights abroad.

LitRI for Readers in Other Languages

At this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, which runs from Oct. 18-23, the KBN team will showcase LitRI — a translation funding program for foreign publishers, intended to foster translation of Indonesian literature and other works into foreign languages. By providing assistance to publishers, who have bought publication rights, LitRI's goal is the greater circulation and visibility of books by Indonesian authors worldwide.

Indonesian authors whose works have been translated and who have helped to bring the country to wider attention this year include Eka Kurniawan, author of much acclaimed "Man Tiger" and "Beauty Is a Wound" and recent recipient of the Oppenheimer-Financial Times Emerging Voices Award; Leila Chudori, whose novel "Home" has been translated into six languages; Ratih Kumala, whose novel "The Cigarette Girl" was acquired by publishers in three countries; Agustinus Wibowo, whose book "Ground Zero" is being translated into Chinese; and Laksmi Pamuntjak, whose novel "A Question of Red," was named recipient of the Frankfurt Book Fair-sponsored LiBeratur Prize.

Diverse and International Program

Internationality is a mainstay of Indonesia's program, as can be seen in this year's events, including its "Soul Mates" and "In Translation" series, where the country's authors are paired with colleagues from other countries. Flanders and the Netherlands are together this year's guests of honor and at Indonesia's national stand (Hall 4.0 C75), hard-hitting Indonesian novelist Seno Gumira Ajidarma will joust with Flemish author David van Reybrouck on the subject of "Fact or Fiction." Best-selling poet M. Aan Mansyur will talk about "The Importance of Immediacy" with prize-winning German author Marius Hulpe. Meanwhile, "Admiration and Inspiration" brings best-seller writer Laksmi Pamuntjak together with German author and literary critic Paul Ingendaay; "The Comic Divide" has comic-artist-cum-environment activist Tita Larasati comparing views with French colleague Nicolas Wild; and "Off the Path of Conformity" has the acclaimed Goenawan Mohamad conversing with the renowned Fiona Judith Kidman of New Zealand.

Almost every hour of every day at the national stand will be some kind of event: a book launch, a film showing, matchmaking meetings with publishers, and even a book-design exhibition. Haidar Bagir, author and director of Mizan publishing group, will launch the English-language version of his book, "Compassionate Islam," and Italian photographer Romano Stefano will present his most recent photographic book, "My Own Private Indonesia."

For the first time ever, Indonesia will have, in the Agora — the fair's open-air public gathering space — a marquee called "Island of Imagination" where musical performances, workshops, and additional discussions will be held. There, the likes of progressive Muslim writer Abidah El Khalieky will discuss the position of women in Aceh during the post-tsunami, pre-Helsinki Peace Treaty period with American editor Gabriella Page-Fort of Amazon Crossing, which will be publishing Abidah's novel, "Nirzona." Other hot topics, from "Faith or Fashion" to "Gender Dialogues" will liven the "In Conversation" series and warm visitors on those chilly October days.

Especially for this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, Jendela Ide, a cultural institution based in Bandung, West Java, developed a musical project titled "Cakravala Mandala Dvipantara," which brought together a talented group of musicians who created seven new musical compositions that will have their world premiere at the "Island of Imagination." Also created, especially for the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair, is a performance titled "Rhythm and Motion," which will be shown daily and includes a demonstration of Indonesia's artistic form of self-defense pencak silat to the accompaniment of modern music.

Integral to Indonesian culture is its cuisine and at lunchtime at the national stand, visitors will be able to soothe their taste buds with a cup of comforting soto ayam. In the gourmet gallery (Hall 3.1 K94) on Oct. 19, star-chef Bara Pattiradjawane will touch on the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands by serving "rijsttafel." And in a food exploration program for schoolchildren, held every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the gourmet gallery, chefs Astrid Enricka and Budi Lee Kurniawan will instruct younger visitors to the fair in various aspects of Indonesian cuisine.

Indonesia will bring 300 books to Frankfurt this year with the hope of selling rights to them all. The country's presence at the 500-year-old Frankfurt Book Fair may not be of the same size it was in 2015, but its program is no less diverse and interesting.

Edith Koesoemawiria is an Indonesian journalist based in Germany, previously with the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. In 2015, she was a local coordinator of the Indonesian program at the Frankfurt Book Fair.