Life

Remy Sylado: Churning out
works with typewriters


Emanuel Dapa Loka, Contributor, Jakarta

When it comes to productivity, no one can rival novelist Remy Sylado's versatility. Since 1999, he has churned out two best-sellers almost every year.

In 1999, for example, he published Di Sebuah Sudut Taman (At a Park's Corner) and Cau Bau Kan. These novels were followed by Kerudung Merah Kirmizi (Kirmizi's Red Veil) in 2002, Kembang Jepun and Parijs van Java in 2003 and Sam Po Kong in 2004.

Just recently, he launched Boulevard de Clichy Agonia Cinta Monyet, a novel depicting the nightlife on a 200-meter section of road in France, and 9 Oktober 1740, Drama Sejarah (October 9, 1740, a Historical Drama).

But how many book lovers out there know that Remy Sylado, born as Yapi Panda Abdiel Tambayong, still uses a typewriter to write his novels?

""I'm used to working with a typewriter. I have always been working with a typewriter and don't want to change the habit,"" Remy said.

""If I change I will no longer be myself and that may be another problem for me,"" Remy told The Jakarta Post last week.

At his house in Cipinang Muara, East Jakarta, Remy, who first used a typewriter at the age of 16 for his first novel Inanikeke, has seven typewriters, including three electric ones.

The oldest was produced in the 1930s, while the one he always uses dates back to the 1960s.

So, if you pass by Remy's house, you would certainly hear the tapping sound of a typewriter in an almost harmonious rhythm of its own. The raps signal that Remy Sylado is working on various literary pieces.

At present, he is finishing an historical novel titled Diponegoro, as requested by a publisher in Solo, Central Java. Just recently he completed Kamus Bahasa dan Budaya Manado (Manado Language and Culture Dictionary), which is expected to hit the market in August.

Remy has also published books on language like Bahasa Menunjukkan Bangsa (Language Reflects National Character) and 9 Dari Sepuluh Kata Bahasa Indonesia Adalah Bahasa Asing (Nine Out of Ten Indonesian Words are of Foreign Origin). He also claims to have written hundreds of topical volumes and novels.

Remy, who won the Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2000 for his novel Kerudung Merah Kirmizi, said he plans to collect more old typewriters and make special shelves for them.

It does not mean, however, that Remy, who turned 53 years old last July 12, rejects computer technology. In fact, on several occasions he has used computers to writer articles and does send emails.

""When I contacted my friend (the late) Dami N. Toda in Germany by email, I had to turn to my computer. Also when I was abroad and asked by Kompas daily and Gatra weekly to submit articles in two hours, I used a computer,"" he said without giving any specific dates.

In 2000, Remy received a computer as a gift from a friend, but it has been practically idle since then.

Remy also writes his rough copies with a pencil on used paper before typing them.

""So I'm (probably) the only writer who writes with my own hand, not with a computer,"" said Remy, who was born in Makassar, South Sulawesi on July 12, 1945.

He said he chooses to use a pencil and recycled paper because it's easy erase his mistakes and he likes to avoid waste.

But a closer look at how he writes his novel suggests Remy explores his ideas while writing and making corrections. As he erases mistakes with a rubber and later with correction fluid when typing, Remy is 'forced' to think harder and reformulate ideas.

Very often, he said, he is prompted to replace several mistakes or a paragraph with two new pages in the process of story writing.

Remy, who has several foreign languages including Hebrew and Arabic, was quick to add that his imagination and ideas were not determined by handwriting, his typewriter or computer.

""It's only a matter of habit,"" he quipped, showing the handwritten draft of novel Diponegoro, which is scheduled to be published August.

Despite the long writing process -- handwriting the draft, reading, and typing with a typewriter and reformulating paragraphs and ideas -- Remy finishes his novels in a relatively short period of time. The first of a planned three-volume novel Diponegoro, for instance, has taken him only two months.

Another example that Remy enjoys his habits is that he will only work seated on a hard chair.

""I can't bear sitting on a swivel chair,"" he said.

""I've bought that expensive chair but it brings me no comfort, so I sent it to my other house in Bogor.

""I still use the tough one like an old dining chair,"" said the Beatles fan, who goes by several pen names including Dova Syla, Alif Danya Munsyi and Juliana C. Panda.

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