Grim romance: Eka Kurniawan on hapless characters and writes what he knows: 9781581452099: books


Originally written in Indonesian, Sumur was first published in September 2020 in English under the title Well, as part of the Penguin Books anthology Tales of two planets. Its Indonesian version has now been released in Indonesia, via publisher PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

The news is a limited edition, with only 2,000 copies printed. A bookmark accompanying the book reads: “This book will only be printed once. One day, it will be a rare piece.

The movement is not just a marketing schtick, insists Eka, who said the aim was to present the book to “those who really want to read or have it.”

“It’s not a gimmick because we weren’t sure there would be a lot of people willing to buy a thin book in the midst of the pandemic when book sales are at their lowest. So, well, we think it’s wise to announce that the book will only be printed once.

The book eventually sold out and is no longer available at Gramedia’s official online stores.

A 50 page short story, Eka didn’t think she would find a post in any form.

“It was too long to be published in the media, and it might be too long before it was included in another anthology because I was not writing other news,” said Eka. Jakarta Post.

Eka caught the public’s attention when the English version of her novel Lelaki Harimau (Tiger Man) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016. In 2019 he received a Prince Claus Prize in the literary category. His works have been translated into more than 30 languages.

Beyond Borders: Eka Kurniawan’s books have been translated into 35 languages. (Courtesy of

Critical romance

Sumur delivers a heartbreaking story of lovers Toyib and Siti, whose relationship is thwarted by a climate crisis and water-related conflicts, which have disrupted the social fabric of their village. Despite being a short read, the short story deals a blow to sentimental hearts, leaving readers with a pain that lingers long after finishing the book.

Eka said he used the story to write about climate change in plain language. The writer avoided hard-to-understand jargon.

The author spent his childhood in the rural area of ​​Tasikmalaya, West Java, and drew on first-hand experiences to discuss the rural conflicts encountered in Sumur.

“I grew up in a farming family. Often times I have heard stories of similar conflicts, usually horizontal conflicts between farmers, or between groups of farmers, or between a group of farmers and a powerful party that had the power to control the water source.

Eka wrote history in Ciputat, Tangerang, where he now resides. He did so between writing another novel. While the details of the process are clear to him, the inspiration is not.

“I forgot what incident inspired me to write this short story. Maybe I was a little nostalgic and it reminded me of a special well, the one in my mother’s house that rarely ran dry, ”Eka recalls.

“In my village, there were only two wells that never ran dry. The other was located near a mosque. During the dry season, many of my neighbors had to draw their water there.

Tragic destinies collection project

Eka said he liked to immediately write draft stories whenever inspiration hit him. He would then put them away and take them out when the time was right.

“Stories are not written in one sitting. At first I will only jot down a short draft. When I have time, I will add more elements or change the plot. I never have. of fixed story design, “Eka said when asked about her writing process,” I have a lot of story drafts that will always be redesigned.

The author: Eka Kurniawan attends the launch of her book, 'O', in Jakarta on March 13, 2016. The author: Eka Kurniawan attends the launch of her book, ‘O’, in Jakarta on March 13, 2016 (The Jakarta Post / Wienda Parwitasari)

“[It was] only when John Freeman [editor of Tales of Two Planets] contacted me to participate in the anthology, which I chose Sumur because the story fits the proposed topic, ”Eka said.

“The only things I need for writing stories are the [right] the weather and the mood, ”Eka said with a laugh. The process takes anywhere from two or three days to months and years.

Eka said he always relied heavily on things he already knew or ideas he absorbed from movies, books or people’s anecdotes. He then folds the ideas into something that interests him.

The protagonists of Sumur, Siti and Toyib, are just two of Eka’s substantial collection of hapless characters. His previous novels and short stories are full of unhappy people with extraordinary life journeys. They usually end up dead, in jail, or insane.

Eka said his characters, just like people in real life, lack the power to control how the world around them unfolds.

“I don’t know what to say, sometimes it’s the plot that gets them there. It’s rare that I have a story design where the characters end up like this or that, ”he said. “Every time I write, it’s a new journey. The characters and their situations will help me achieve their unfortunate ends.

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