The writer Amir Hamza is a national hero in Indonesia celebrated for both his poetry and his role in the development of the country’s national language. Hamza was an emotional man who struggled with thwarted love and inner conflict and created a beguilingly intense body of work. His poetry paid homage to Malay literary tradition infused with Islamic mysticism but also reflected new ideas springing up in the artistic circles in Java where he worked in the 1930s. Towards the end of that decade events conspired to enforce his return to the family home in Sumatra and ultimately led to his becoming a tragic victim of brutal retribution during Indonesia’s transition to independence.
Rajan Datar is joined by Ayu Utami, an award-winning Indonesian novelist, playwright and broadcaster; Ben Murtagh, Reader in Indonesian and Malay at SOAS, University of London, and managing editor of the journal Indonesia and the Malay World; and Taufiq Hanafi, an Indonesian literary scholar currently at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies in Leiden. The reader is Sallehuddin Abdullah-Sani.
[Photo: Amir Hamzah]