The Jakarta Post
Author Eliza Vitri Handayani depicts the meaning of freedom and the search for identity in contemporary Indonesia through her new novel.
The book From Now On Everything Will Be Different is the English version of Eliza's 2014 novel, Mulai Saat Ini Segalanya Akan Berubah.
From Now On was initially slated for release at last year's Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, but the book launch was one of about 200 events that were cancelled after local police warned that they would revoke the festival's license if the committee continued with activities related to the upheaval of 1965.
'My book is not about 1965; I mentioned it a little bit, but it was unfortunately dragged into the 1965 paranoia wave,' Eliza said during the Jakarta launch.
Despite the unfortunate Ubud episode, she was not afraid for her Jakarta launch.
'I'm not afraid because I've prepared for a worst-case scenario. We must be smart and honest and, most importantly, never be afraid,' she said.
The Jakarta launch at South Jakarta's Kedai CafÃ© featured a dramatic reading of the book's excerpts by actress Dinda Kanyadewi and singer Kartika Jahja from Tika and the Dissidents. Eliza also worked together with a street artist, Vendy Methodos, who painted a mural inspired by the novel on the wall of the cafÃ©.
The 160-page book talks about freedom in various aspects ' from freedom from a repressive regime to a person's freedom to choose what he or she really wants to be.
It follows the lives of Julita and Rizky, entwining their paths as they are try to break free from a pattern of repeated disappointment and define themselves.
Eliza begins the book in the present, before tracing back to their high school experience during in the New Order era.
Julita is a rebellious teenager who likes photography and dreams of being a photographer who travels the world and holds exhibitions abroad. Her personality charms Rizky, inspiring him to pursue his own passion in acting.
An incident at school breaks up their friendship and they do not talk again until they are brought together by the events of the reformation.
Rizky joins thousands of students who take over the street demanding the resignation of the president who has reigned for more than 30 years, while Julita is busy taking pictures of individuals during the fall of the New Order.
When Julita moves to France, Eliza keeps the characters' relationship close as they exchange letters and text messages, becoming best friends who are able to talk about things they cannot talk about with other people.
'I want them to be able to talk about their thoughts and feelings but not in a narrative way, so I let them talk through letters,' Eliza said.
The book also talks a lot about love, hopes, disappointment and social politics as people try to define their identities.
'Those aspects were related with one another; the search for freedom is tightly linked with the search of identity, while identity itself is connected with the search for love,' she said.
The book, published by Sydney-based publisher Vagabond Press, is thicker than its Indonesian version, printed by Yayasan Pustaka Obor. She has added more social and political background to provide a broader understanding of Indonesia for a foreign audience.
'I also added a few scenes based on the feedback that I received from the Indonesian book,' said Eliza, who is the founder of InterSastra, an initiative that promotes literary translation in Indonesia.
Eliza said she had a plan to republish the novel in Indonesian, in a version that is as complete as the English edition.
'I hope this book can become a reflection, a voice for the unheard so they don't feel alone in this world,' she said.
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