Agus Noor: Addicted to surrealism
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Courtesy of Agus NoorThroughout his years of career as a poet and figure in the theater, Agus Noor has eagerly utilized a wealth of literary acumen to stimulate and support his own creative processes.
With reference to his short story, “Kunang-Kunang di Langit Jakarta” (Fireflies in Jakarta’s Sky), which won this year’s Kompas short story award, Agus confessed that he was inspired by Umar Kayam’s “A Thousand Fireflies in Manhattan”.
“My short story is a result of my study of Kayam’s story. As a writer of today’s generation, I feel that I should celebrate the glory of the literature that has influenced me,” he told The Jakarta Post recently, adding that lately he was largely influenced by other authors, such as Indonesian poet Seno Gumira Ajidarma and the famous Umar Kayam.
While Kayam’s story tells of an Indonesian admiring the lights of an American city and comparing them to fireflies, Agus turned the tables by writing about an American admiring fireflies in Jakarta.
“I figure that Americans might be somewhat in awe of fireflies, their personal experience of them having been limited to watching the Discovery Channel,” he said with a smile.
“Kunang-Kunang” also makes reference of the tragedy of May 1998, which he said was a deliberate contrivance to pay a tribute to the tragedy’s victims, lest Indonesians forget the catastrophe.
Agus told the Post about three books that have influenced him as a writer: Orang-orang Bloomington (Bloomington People), a 1980 anthology of eight short stories by Budi Darma, one of Indonesia’s most influential writers; The Name of the Rose (original title Il nome della rosa), English version published in 1983, by Italian author Umberto Eco, and Insomnia, a 1994 novel by American author Stephen King.
Orang-orang Bloomington by Budi Darma
I was in a junior high school when I read this book. It influenced me to just go crazy with my imagination when writing fiction. Budi Darma, in his own way, taught me that a story can be filled with wild thoughts. Psychologically, the book is the first influence of my style of writing, which is untamed and surrealistic.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
When I read his book, I had already decided to be a writer. Eco taught me that there is more than one style of writing. He made me realize that mystery fiction can also be written with epic descriptions. I like the way Eco sorts out his plot and his way of exploring historical facts to support the narrative thrust of his novel.
Insomnia by Stephen King
I want to make this balanced by choosing an author from a popular genre. My favorite pop author is Stephen King. To be honest, I love almost all of his novels but if I must pick one then it will be Insomnia. Why? Well I think it is simply because I have an attraction to dark stories and King’s technique in writing mystery stories with intense descriptions is very admirable. He builds suspense in his stories without rushing it. King also made me realize that we may choose ordinary-themed stories, but, as long as we know how to write them, the readers will still be interested in them. (asa)