Leila S. Chudori

Portrait Leila S. Chudori
© Hartwig Klappert

Leila Salikha Chudori was born in 1962 in Jakarta, Indonesia, Leila is the daughter of the former co-founder of the English-language newspaper »The Jakarta Post.« After graduating with a degree in philosophy and political science from Trent University in Canada in 1988, she worked as a journalist for the Indonesian magazines »Jakarta Jakarta« and »Tempo,« for which she was awarded a 1991 prize by the Indonesian press association.

She began writing short stories for children’s magazines when she was just 12, and published her first collection of stories in 1989 as »Malam Terakhir« (tr: The Last Night). The author combines her experiences in the modern, western world with the myths of her own culture, and examines previously taboo subjects, such as the hypocrisy of public morality, and in particular a woman’s right to self-determination in the face of all contrary conventions. One figure takes refuge from the influence of her dominant mother in the novels of D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, to the point where the books’ characters become her friends and advisors. Chudori is considered one of the most unusual as well as most daring writers of her generation in Indonesia, not least of all due to her unconventional narrative style, which relies on sensitive and thoughtful civilized language. She draws not only on her journalistic work, but also her own experiences for her story material. She writes for the critical and influential magazine »Tempo,« which was banned under President Suharto and only re-launched after his resignation. So far Chudori has published four collections of short stories; her latest was »9 dari Nadira« (2009, tr: 9 Stories of Nadira), which can be read as a novel, since the individual stories are linked by the protagonist, the journalist Nadira, and tell of different chapters in her life. In one of the most haunting stories, Nadira researches a crime and interviews a serial killer in a psychiatric hospital, who turns the tables on the journalist and confronts her with her own demons. In 2012, Chudori published her first novel, titled »Pulang« (tr: Home). It begins with the story of a group of journalists forced into exile during Suharto’s 1965 anti-communist massacres. Forbidden to return to their homeland, they settle in Paris, and Chudori combines historical events with personal destinies as the book goes on to relate the fate of two generations. Her novel is published in English, French and German (»Pulang (Heimkehr nach Jakarta)«, 2015 and soon in Italien as well.

In 2013, the book received the Khatulistiwa Literary Award. Among the author’s upcoming projects is the first volume of a family history, with her daughter Rain Chudori Soerjoatmodjo slated to write the second half.