Here in Ubud, I'm getting ready for the opening night of the Writers and Readers festival. It's going to be a busy few days, and I'm already excited. Last night was the informal reception for the writers involved in the festival, and for the people covering the events over the coming few days. It was a wonderful evening of fun and of stimulating conversations – about everything from poetry to LGBT rights, and from mental health arts project to the strange ways of the publishing world. I came away with two things in particular from the evening: the first was the heightened sense that here in Indonesia, as elsewhere, there are huge challenges when it comes to resisting injustice, and holding back the forces that seek to close down thought, imagination and openness; and the second is the immense creativity and courage of many of the artists, writers and activists who are striving to build a more just and open world.
And for a sense of the sheer energy that there is here, and this spirit of openness, the festival’s bilingual anthology of Indonesian writers is hard to beat (it’s a particular pleasure to be able to read new writers, and to brush up my Indonesian at the same time). These two lines in particular struck me after last night’s conversations – the final lines of the lovely Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s poem Tentang Sepasang Lelaki Muda di Basemen P3 fX Sudirman or On A Young Male Couple in the P3 fX Sudirman Basement).
cinta dapat tumbuh di segala tempat, termasuk di dalam gelap,
dan cinta yang tumbuh di dalam gelap juge memberikan hidup.
love can bloom in any place, including in the dark,
and love that blossoms in the dark is also life-giving
There are many ways of reading these lines. But however you want to read them, to me they seem fitting for the times in which we live.
(Norman’s work is soon to be published in translation by Tilted Axis press. You should get yourselves a copy).