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Agus R. Sarjono: ‘The things I like about Germany are the rich and outstanding literature and its tradition of philosophy’

Name: Agus R. Sarjono
Lives in: Depok, Indonesia
Country of origin: Indonesia
Period in Germany: September 2001 in Bremen and Berlin; October 2002 to February 2003 in the Heinrich-Böll House, Langenbroich/NRW; December 2010 to February 2011 in Bonn; June to July 2015 in the Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf, Brandenburg; diverse short visits between 2004 and 2014
Educational institutions: Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin; Literaturforum in Brecht-Haus Berlin, Literaturhaus Cologne; DIG – German-Indonesian Society, Cologne; University of Bonn; Humboldt University, Berlin; University of Hamburg; Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Occupation: poet, author, publisher, lecturer

The Indonesian writer Agus R. Sarjono  writes poems, short stories, essays, plays and literary criticism. His work has appeared in publications in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as in various periodicals in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA.

He has published more than 20 books on literature, theatre, art and culture. These include Pembebasan Budaya-budaya Kita (‘The Liberation of our Cultures’, 1999), a collection of cultural lectures by prominent Indonesian intellectuals such as Soedjatmoko, B.J. Habibie, Mochtar Lubis, Mochtar Kusumaatmadja and WS Rendra, and Poetry and Sincerity (2006).

Together with Berthold Damshäuser, Agus R. Sarjono is a translator and publisher of Seri Puisi Jerman, a series of German poetry in Indonesian, and has also released volumes of poetry with works by Rainer Maria Rilke, Bertolt Brecht, Paul Celan, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg Trakl and Hermann Hesse.

Award-winning literature from Indonesia

Agus R. Sarjono works as a lecturer in the theatre studies department of the STSI College of Art in Bandung. He was publishing editor of the literature magazine Horison  (2007-2013) and editor-in-chief of Jurnal Kritik (‘Journal of literary criticism’).

He has participated in many international literature festivals and seminars, reading excerpts of his works or delivering opening speeches. Agus R. Sarjono received the Malaysian Government’s MASTERA Prize for his poetry volume Lumbung Perjumpaan (2012), and the Sunthorn Phu Prize of Thailand for his services to literature (2013).

In 2001, supported by the Poets of all Nations Foundation, he was writer-in-residence at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, the Netherlands. In Germany, too, he has twice acted as writer-in-residence, in 2002/2003 in the Heinrich Böll House in Langenbroich, North Rhine-Westphalia, and in 2015 in the Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf in Brandenburg.

Agus R. Sarjono on Germany

What do you associate with Germany?

Agus R. Sarjono: Literature, philosophy, music and football

What was your best experience in Germany?

Agus R. Sarjono: I’ve had lots of different experiences and I find it hard to say which was the best. But if I really had to choose, then I’d say it is the time I’ve spent in small towns like Langenbroich and Wiepersdorf as writer-in-residence.

What do you like about Germany/about the Germans?

Agus R. Sarjono: The things I like about Germany are the rich and outstanding literature and its tradition of philosophy. The people are friendly and sensitive, and they have a great sense of humour and irony.

How has the time you spent in Germany influenced your life?

Agus R. Sarjono: It inspired me to write a lot of poems about Germany.

What things are completely different in Germany, compared to your home country?

Agus R. Sarjono: In Germany people are too disciplined and serious, whereas in Indonesia they’re too indisciplined and relaxed.

Interview: Novel Meilanie

You can also read the interview with Agus R. Sarjono about Indonesia as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, on the Alumniportal Deutschland.