After Soeharto fell in 1998, there was a great opening of bottom drawers. Writers who had previously kept their manuscripts for trusted friends’ eyes only suddenly found the courage to seek a wider market.
Publishers, no longer throttled by harsh censorship, responded with enthusiasm – particularly welcoming women daring to break the taboo of discussing sex.
Sastra wangi, literally perfumed literature, was born. It flourished briefly and rapidly withered. Many writers were one-book wonders, exhausted once they’d put down the naughty words, challenged authority and experienced catharsis.
Separating the women from the girls was Surabaya writer Lan Fang who died from cancer on Christmas Day in Singapore, leaving a legacy of nine books and scores of short stories written over 26 years. Her mother and grandmother died of the same disease. She was only 41 an...