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Jakarta Post

Eliza Vitri Handayani: A less fantastic literary style

  • Novia D. Rulistia

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, March 10, 2014   /  12:32 pm
Eliza Vitri Handayani: A less fantastic literary style

Courtesy of Eliza Vitri Handayani

Author Eliza Vitri Handayani says that everything will feel wonderful when the time is right.

Now, after more than 10 years since her first novel, Eliza says that she'€™s ready to publish a book that reflects who she really is.

The 29-year-old recently released Mulai Saat Ini Segalanya Akan Berubah (From Now On, Everything Will Be Different), which tells the story of a young man and woman exploring the romantic possibilities of their friendship against the backdrop of the early Reform era.

'€œThis is the first novel that I'€™ve worked on by myself. Honestly, I published a novel when I was a teenager with the help of a more senior writer, but I wasn'€™t satisfied with it because I felt that the book wasn'€™t me,'€ Eliza said. '€œNow, I'€™ve decided to go on my own; opening my own path.'€

Eliza backed away from the literary world after her first novel, Area X: Hymne Angkasa Raya, was published, wanting readers to forget about it.

She decided to wait a before writing again, feeling that she was not ready to share her views with the public. '€œI withdrew because I needed some time to find the strength to move forward.'€

The idea for the new book had been percolating for a while, prompting her to start a short story about the characters who would become the protagonists of From Now On.

Only in 2010, however, did Eliza think about completing the story as a novel, combining three focuses: the professional, the personal and the national.

'€œI like the idea how someone'€™s life can greatly affected by what happens to their country, in this case Reform,'€ Eliza said.

So she researched life in the 1990s until the fall of the New Order in 1998, starting to write in 2011 and finishing a year later.

'€œI tried to get it published in 2013, but apparently, it was not easy. It took me a year,'€ Eliza said. '€œI'€™m satisfied with it.'€

Eliza has been fascinated by writing since she was a child, when she noticed that she liked to write in the morning about the dreams she had the night before.

She wrote a lot, but only for herself '€” until she won a national writing contest in high school and went to Wesleyan University in the US to study film directing.

'€œMy childhood dream was to become a film director. I'€™ve always liked writing, and at that time I felt like it would be good if I could make a film based on my writing,'€ she said.

At Weselyan, however, she felt behind compared to her peers, who had a greater exposure to filmmaking. '€œUnlike me, they had started making films since they were very young and had better [cinematic] references than me. So in my third year, I decided to just become a writer because I was more comfortable with it.'€

Returning to Jakarta in 2006 after graduation, she took a job as chief acquisitions editor at Serambi Publishing for a year and managed the Jakarta Arts Council'€™s Literary Translation Program until 2009.

In between, she tried to get to know the city that she left when she was a teenager by attending cultural events, visiting new places and becoming a volunteer.

Eliza currently lives in Oslo with her husband, dividing her time between Norway and Jakarta.

When she returns to Indonesia every six months or so, she'€™s busy with InterSastra, an initiative that she founded in 2012 to improve and promote literary translation in Indonesia.

InterSastra organizes workshops for those translating to and from Indonesian, featuring speakers from Australia, England, the Netherlands and Norway.

However, nothing beats the joy that she finds in writing, Eliza says: Writing is like coming home to a place where she can relax and be happy. '€œI have many interviews and promotions now that my novel has been released. I'€™m so glad doing all that, but I will be much happier if I can write more. I miss writing already.'€

Eliza, who admires Milan Kundera and Chairil Anwar, said that she'€™s working on drafts for her upcoming novels, which would still be based on real-life events.

'€œI like writing stories that happen in real life. Capturing mundane things that are still interesting to read is very challenging for me. Maybe I want something that is less fantastic, but more realistic,'€ Eliza said.

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