Silenced Voices
New Writing from Indonesia

Series Editor Frank Stewart
Guest Editor John H. McGlynn

Song of the Snow Lion
New Writing from Tibet

Series Editor Frank Stewart
Guest Editors Tsering Shakya
and Herbert J. Batt

Guest-edited by John McGlynn of the Lontar Foundation, Silenced Voices features Indonesian authors who, for the most part, have been censored in their country due to the political climate of the past three decades. The authors are Hersri Setiawan, Sujinah, Abdul Latief, Ahmad Tohari, Ayu Utami, Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Putu Oka Sukanta, Goenawan Mohamad, and Ratna Sarumpaet.

The works—most of which have been translated for publication in MĀNOA—include fiction, poetry, essays, and courtroom testimony. In his overview essay, McGlynn discusses the state of censorship in Indonesia as the country moves toward full democracy.

The feature also includes an interview by Harold Augenbraum with Will Schwalbe—an editor at Hyperion and one of the strongest American supporters of censored Asian writers—about how Schwalbe came to publish Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

Also in this volume: part two of a two-part symposium on translating Asian poetry into English (with Willis Barnstone, Mark Bender, William I. Elliott, Ok-Koo Kang Grosjean, Jane Hirshfield, Leza Lowitz, Ken McCullough, Shogo Oketani, J. P. Seaton, Eric Selland, Gary Snyder, and Michelle Yeh); fiction by Albert Wendt, Ha Jin, and Willis Barnstone; and poetry by Peter Dale Scott, Xue Di, and Arthur Sze.


“Often, and for good reason, the criticism by these writers has been reserved for the military and the government, documenting such abuses of power by these two closely allied institutions as the kidnapping, detention, and torture of tens of thousands of political opponents. Indeed, the Suharto era was born on the deaths of an estimated one million people deemed to be political adversaries and on the detention—oftentimes without trial or even the filing of formal charges—of another seven hundred thousand. Though thirty-five years have passed since the fall of Sukarno and the rise of the New Order government, Indonesia has only just begun to reconcile itself with the events of 1965 — not only the massive social unrest and the loss of so many lives, but also the obliteration of so many personal histories, the very threads in the fabric from which a nation is made.”
—from “Silenced Voices, Muted Expressions: 
Indonesian Literature Today” by John H. McGlynn

“A young activist who was murdered, presumably for demanding higher wages for her fellow workers, Marsinah has decided, against the objections of her graveyard companions, to return to Earth. At a performance to be held in conjunction with the launching of a book about her, she intends to remind the audience that, although a number of years have passed since her murder, the case has yet to be solved. As the play opens, she can be seen on a platform in a cemetery, curled in a fetal position. Anxious about her decision to return to Earth, she moans softly.
     “If only, in this profound and spirit-filled silence, I could find true silence...
If only, in this silence, I could shut out the moans of hunger, the frightening screams, and unending pain...
If only, for a moment, I could feel that my body was still my own...”

—from “Marsinah Accuses” by Ratna Sarumpaet

“For Mawa, waking in the morning was always a race with the sun. After azan (the call to prayer), the cells were unlocked and opened. This effectively changed the call to praise God for his greatness and beneficence to a command for the prisoners to transform themselves into oxen and targets of abuse. Every day the prisoners had to ready themselves for the anger of their keepers. Who could predict the frustrations that might be taken out on them—whether the source was a bedroom, a food stall, or a brothel? In the penal colony to which Mawa had been exiled, there were no rules or laws to protect those souls struggling to remain human.
     “For a week now, Mawa had been working in the rice fields. He was only too aware of what he had to endure as a member of this forced-labor crew: not only the toil and sweat, but the degradation, which cut his heart like a razor and brought tears to his eyes. Fully armed and wearing wide-brimmed cowboy hats, the guards towered above the prisoners from their positions on the bunds between the fields. Mawa avoided eye contact with them and kept his head bowed low as he planted rice seedlings in the mud. Every time he jabbed a seedling into the moist soil, he felt as if he himself were being pierced to the core.”
—from “Leftover Soul” by Putu Oka Sukanta

Song of the Snow Lion features new fiction, poetry, and essays from Tibet. Since China's invasion of the country in 1950 and the suffering wrought by the Cultural Revolution, Tibetans have struggled to prevent their ancient culture and country from disappearing. At the same time, many of them recognize that modernization in some form must come. Out of such difficult political conditions and cultural paradoxes, Tibetan authors have developed a literature that, despite Chinese censorship, explores the pressing questions facing the country today.

The authors in the feature include Tashi Dawa, Sebo, Ju Kalzang, Tashi Pelden, Alai, and Geyang. In addition, there are works by Yangdon, the first Tibetan woman to publish a novel; poet and novelist Meizhuo, a woman of extraordinary range; and Dhondup Gyal, considered the founder of modern Tibetan writing. An overview essay by co-guest editor Tsering Shakya explains the rise of a modern Tibetan literature.

Other writers in the volume include Vietnamese American author Andrew Lam; Lenore Look, a Chinese American woman who traveled back to her parents' birthplace in the PRC; exiled Chinese poet Xue Di; essayist Virgil Suárez; and poet Bill Tremblay. In addition, the volume features reviews of current books and a portfolio of photographs of Ladakh by Karl Einar-Lofqvist.

About the guest editors: Tsering Shakya is one of Tibet's leading intellectuals; his books include Fire Under the Snow: The Testimony of a Tibetan Prisoner and The Dragon in the Land of Snow: A History of Modern Tibet.
Herbert J. Batt is a translator and scholar of Chinese literature; his recent book is Tales of Tibet: Contemporary Chinese-language Fiction on Tibet.


“Chinese rule had an immediate and striking impact on the Tibetan language at every level—because it was initially used as the means for the Communists to convey their message. At this stage, Tibetan intellectuals were recruited as ‘important patriotic personages’—a class that would mediate between the past and the present. Because many of the early literary elite came from monasteries and the religious community, the Chinese assumed that they would be trusted by the masses.”
—from “The Waterfall and Fragrant Flowers:
 The Development of Tibetan Literature
 Since 1950” by Tsering Shakya

“He crawled to her side and marked a bloody cross on their son’s pure-white forehead. With a laugh, he spoke these last words: ‘Damn. Killing everywhere. With knives. With guns. That’s life.’ Ugyen watched his mother pull his father’s knife from his belt and solemnly lay it on him there inside her robe, passing on the legacy to him. The icy blade on his face made him shudder as if he’d gotten an electric shock. The cold steel of the knife pressed against his chest so heavy he couldn’t breathe. His father stroked his face, laughed contentedly, then died.”
–from “The Glory of the Wind Horse” by Tashi Dawa

“History—ah, history!
Why have you laid your head down to sleep here?
If the ascendance of the Tibetan empire
Had continued to spread into the heavens like the stars
It would have been absorbed into the vast emptiness of the night.
The Land of Snows is like a fur coat torn from a rabid dog
Faded and fallen in a desolate corner of the universe.”
–from “Snow Mountain Tears” by Dpa’da

280 pp., summer 2000 (12:1), $20
ISBN 978-0-8248-2321-4
Project Muse

208 pp., winter 2000 (12:2), $20
ISBN 978-0-8248-2385-6
Project Muse