Laksmi Pamuntjak (b. 1971) is an award-winning bilingual Indonesian novelist, poet, food writer and journalist. She writes for numerous local and international publications including the Jakarta Post, South China Morning Post, Die Welt, Kulturaustausch and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She has also written on culture and politics for the Guardian. (For some of Pamuntjak's op-ed articles in the Guardian: see http://laksmipamuntjak.com/works/tdashegudashrdashidashn)
Pamuntjak is the author of three collections of poetry, Ellipsis, the Anagram, and There are Tears in Things (Ellipsis appeared in the 2005 Herald UK Books of the Year pages), a treatise on the relationship between man and violence based on the Iliad entitled Perang, Langit dan Dua Perempuan (War, Heaven and Two Women); a collection of short stories based on paintings entitled The Diary of R.S.: Musings on Art; five editions of the award-winning, independent restaurant series Jakarta Good Food Guide; two translations of the works of Indonesian poet and essayist Goenawan Mohamad; and three novels, Amba/ The Question of Red, Aruna dan Lidahnya/The Birdwoman's Palate) and Fall Baby/Kekasih Musim Gugur.
Pamuntjak's second novel, Aruna dan Lidahnya," was a finalist for the 2015 Khatulistiwa Literary Award. The English version, translated by Tiffany Tsao, was published in February 2018 in the US under the title "The Birdwoman's Palate." The movie adaptation of the novel was released nationwide on 27 September 2018, starring Dian Sastrowardojo as Aruna, Nicholas Saputra as Bono, Hannah Al-Rashid as Nadezhda and Oka Antara as Farish. The movie, directed by Edwin, garnered two awards at the 2018 Festival Film Indonesia: for best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay. The movie had its European premiere at the Berlinale International Film Festival in February 2019.
Amba/The Question of Red, Pamuntjak’s best-selling first novel, won Germany’s LiBeraturpreis in 2016. It was short-listed for the 2012 Khatulistiwa Literary Award, appeared on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Top 8 list of the best books of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, and was named best work of fiction from Asia, America, Latin America, and the Caribbean translated into German on the Weltempfaenger (Receivers of the World) list of the best works of fiction translated into German.
The novel is a modern take on the Hindu epic Mahabharata set against the backdrop of the Indonesian mass killings of 1965 and the Buru penal colony, and has been translated into English, German (Alle Farben Rot, 2015) and Dutch (Amba of De Kleur Van Rood, 2015). It also appeared in De Bild's Top 10 Books of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, and the ORF Kultur Top 10 List for November 2015.
In 2012, Pamuntjak, who is co-founder of Aksara Bookstore in Jakarta, was selected by an international panel headed by Sir Simon Armitage as the Indonesian representative for Poetry Parnassus at the 2012 London Olympics. Her prose and poetry have been published in many international literary journals.
Pamuntjak's latest novel, Fall Baby, was published in the original English language by Penguin Random House SEA, in October 2019. It is the sequel of Amba/The Question of Red, and tells the story of two women: Srikandi, the cosmopolitan visual artist daughter of Amba and Bhisma, the protagonists of Amba/The Question of Red, and Dara, a political activist. It is set against the backdrop of the struggle between the fluidity and displacement of the international contemporary art scene and forces of censorship and intolerance in Indonesia. The German version, Herbstkind, was published by Ullstein Verlag in September 2018. The Indonesian version, Kekasih Musim Gugur, is published in June 2020 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
Pamuntjak currently lives in Jakarta.
Pamuntjak has been invited to numerous literary readings and discussions, among others in New York, Berlin, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Florence, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Amsterdam, and international literary festivals such as Macedonia (Struga Poetry Evenings Festival), Torshavn, Faroe Islands (Tower at the End of the World Festival), Australia (eg. Byron Bay Literary Festival; National Poetry Festival in Victoria), Canada (Wordfest Literary Festival in Calgary and Banff), The Netherlands (The Hague: Winternachten International Literary Festival, Amsterdam: “Read My World” International Literary Festival), Germany (Berlin, Bonn, Hamburg Harbour Front, Goettingen), Hong Kong (Man Booker International Literary Festival), Singapore, India (Times Literary Festival, Bangalore; Academy, Delhi); Bangladesh (Hay Literary Festival Dhaka); Indonesia (Ubud International Writers and Readers Festival); and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur; Georgetown Literary Festival Penang).
Her recent 2015 German book tour has seen her give talks and readings, among others, in Berlin, Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Goettingen, Dusseldorf, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Erfurt, Bielefeld, and Bad Berleburg.
Pamuntjak has been invited to speak as guest writer in numerous universities including University of Oxford, Yale University, New York University (NYU), School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS), Ecole francaise d’Extreme- Orient in Paris and Australian National University (ANU). In August 2017, she gave the keynote speech at the University of Oxford, for the opening of the European Southeast Asian Studies Association. The title of the speech is Between Hope and Despair: On Living with Difference in Today's Indonesia (to read the essay, see link: http://laksmipamuntjak.com/works/keynote-speech-at-the-university-of-oxford-on-hope-and-despair-living-with-difference-in-todays-indonesia, to listen to the podcast, http://laksmipamuntjak.com/works/podcast-oxford-university-17-august-2017)
On 20 November 2019, Pamuntjak gave a keynote speech at the Australian National University (ANU) entitled "Claiming Ownership of Our Freed Selves: Freedom, Morality and Art in Indonesia." (to read the essay, see link: http://laksmipamuntjak.com/works/keynote-speech-at-australian-national-university-anu-canberra-claiming-ownership-of-ones-freed-self-freedom-art-and-morality-in-indonesia-20-november-2019 )
Pamuntjak’s poetry and short fiction have appeared, among others, in Critical Muslim (Summer 2015); Asymptote (January 2015); BooksActually Gold Standard Anthology 2016; Softblow; Takahe (NZ): QLRS (Vol. 11 no. 1, Jan 2012), Heat Literary Journal (Australia), Asia Literary Review (December 2015; Autumn 2006, Vol. 3; Spring 2007, Vol. 4; Autumn 2007, Vol. 5; Prince Claus Fund Journal (Special Edition, #12, 2006); the Anthology of Writings from the Utan Kayu Biennale Literary Festival 2007, Not a Muse world poetry anthology (Haven Books: Hong Kong, 2009); Scalar Literary Magazine (Premier Edition, April 2010); Biblio Review of Books (2007); and the Poetry Edition of the Asia Literary Review (November 2010). She also wrote the preface to Not a Muse: World Poetry Anthology (Haven Books: Hong Kong, 2009). In 2012, her poem “A Traveler’s Tale” was published in The World Record (edited by Neil Astley and Anna Selby, Bloodaxe Books: London, 2012) and included in the Rain of Poems (Casagrande: London, 2013).
In April 2009, Pamuntjak was appointed member of the international prize jury of the art philantrophic organisation Prince Claus Fund in Amsterdam, on the behest of the Dutch Royal Family, for the period 2009-2011.