Agus R. Sarjono

Agus R. Sarjono was born in 1962 in Bandung.  He is one of the most popular authors of the younger generation in Indonesia, whose poetry signals a shift in values in a country characterized by tradition and trauma, by introspection and innovation, and which at the same time is seeking a way towards democracy. As a poet, publicist, and co-publisher of the important literature magazine ‘Horizon’, President of the National Literature Committee and teacher at the National Theatre Institute, Sarjono exerts considerable influence over topical debate in his home country.

The town he was born in and where he studied provided ample material for discussion on the subject of political and artistic development: the town is regarded as the intellectual hub of the huge archipelago, as an epicentre often enough responsible for ideological ground movement or as a place where changes can be predicted to happen with seismological precision.  It is the art of being able to sense these changes which for Sarjono and his contemporaries is part of the necessary technique of survival as practised by writers and journalists.  Anybody like Sarjono who was head of the ‘Student Press Unit’ under the Suharto regime, who in such an exposed position took his literary reviews and essays to the public in order to shake up an autocratic society, knew what he was letting himself in for.  The government was able to have newspaper issues destroyed overnight, ban authors from public life, or silence them permanently.

Sarjono’s literature and his public opinions are tantamount to the feat of a tightrope walker who never loses sight of his objective but who gains new ground only with extreme caution. Sarjono’s poems were almost always present in any of the important anthologies which appeared in the crisis-ridden ‘nineties.  The titles of these poems – ‘Night of a Thousand Moons’, ‘New Order’, ‘The country of Shadow’ or ‘The Pepper Land’ – let one sense that here is a generation at work which is conscious of a rich tradition, of disturbing images from the past, but equally of the many and varied influences of the transition period which exists now.

Sarjono received several grants, among them in Leiden, Netherlands, and in Langebroich, Germany. He has represented Indonesia at many highly regarded literature exhibitions in Asia.

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