writers & readers
October 8 - 11
workshops commencing October 6
Richard Oh is a man who loves literature. The founder and owner of a chain of book stores called QB World in Jakarta and several cities in Java, he is a passionate reader and avid lover of the arts and literature in Indonesia. However, Richard’s greatest passion is writing and he shuns his business persona in preference to that of a literary man.
To date, Oh has written three novels, including his latest work, The Rainmaker’s Daughter, a powerful tale that expertly weaves together two distinctly different stories of Indonesian life and society. Hadrian, a slightly bored and sophisticated Jakarta attorney feels the reverberations of an ancient custom from the island of Kalimantan, when he falls in love with an intriguing Batak beauty in a Jakarta cocktail bar, and becomes involved in her mystery. With his broad, yet detailed cinematic brush, Oh takes us into the powerful imagery of the island, contrasting its simple beauty and beliefs with modern Jakarta life. Skillfully flashing back and forth, he leads us headlong into the dramatic climax. We are left with an impression of the complex cultural, racial and societal undercurrents that make up this modern nation, as we empathize with Hadrian and the worlds he is caught between.
Oh was born in Tebing Tinggi, North Sumatra. "I was a very naughty child," he admits. As a result, his parents sent him to his uncle's house in Jakarta where he learned to be disciplined and industrious. In the home of his uncle, who imposed a curfew of 9 p.m., he began studying and writing in English. His enthusiasm for writing grew when one of his short stories was nominated for an award in the Asiaweek Short Story Contest. Supportive comments and praise inspired him to learn more. Consequently, instead of entering business school as his parents had previously hoped, Oh chose to enter an English Literature and Creative Writing course in Madison, Wisconsin USA.
Metafor, Oh’s publishing house, has facilitated the publication of many translated works of Indonesian artists and writers. Among them are the books of the Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer: Tales from Djakarta and It's not an All Night Fair. Tales from Djakarta is the collection of 13 short stories written by Ananta Toer between 1948 and 1956. The short stories were first published in Indonesian in 1963. More recently, Oh's printing company has published the English version of a collection of poems of the senior Indonesian journalist and noted columnist Goenawan Muhammad, as well as, Bachri and Danarto.
The Khatulistiwa Literary Award is a testimony of Oh’s dedication to Indonesian arts and literature. Initiated by Richard and QB World, it is a non profit program that is supported by the management of Plaza Senayan and several sponsors. The award is for novels, short stories and poetry and offers Indonesian artists recognition for their achievement. “The Khatulistiwa Literary Award is held in an effort to support the growth of the Indonesian literary world”, Oh explains. "The jury members come from many fields: they are actors, academicians and critics”. Each year, an award is given to an author whose work is chosen by the jury team as the best book published within the twelve month period prior to the event. The first KLA was held in 2001 and the winner was Goenawan Mohammad. “I strongly believe in the future of Asian Authors”, states Richard. “Readers are in love with Chinese Mainland writers and they've always been enamored with Japanese writers. The Asian writers of this region will soon have their turn. It is such a diverse and rich sweep of culture and communities.”
When asked about the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Oh commented that “writers and publishers are truly grateful that an event of this stature has been made possible in Indonesia. There are of course plenty of areas that need improvement, but for a nascent literary festival, The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival has been an incredible success. This event will provide necessary cross-cultural interaction between Indonesia, rich with its culture and men and women of letters and arts, with the greater international cultural and artistic community”.
Richard Oh is what Aristides Katoppo from Sinar Harapan, editor of one of Indonesia’s oldest newspapers, describes as a rare breed: “a man of culture combined with commercial savvy” and one who is respected in the Indonesian literary world for his “energy, dedication and vision”. This year, Richard Oh has been welcomed by the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival team as the coordinator of Indonesian writers and he will also appear at the festival. QB World books will be opening in Kuta, Bali in 2005.