Ayu Utami is an award-winning Indonesian writer who was the 2000 laureate of the Prince Claus Award. During Indonesia's military regime, Ayu was a journalist and activist for freedom of the press.
She was one of the founders of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, later banned by the military regime. Her first novel Saman (1998), published just a few days before President Suharto stepped down, was highly acclaimed by literary critics and became
a bestseller as well as a beacon of freedom during the movement for political change (Reformasi) in Indonesia. In Indonesia’s democratic political system, she believes that religious radicalism constitutes the main challenge to freedom of expression.
To cope with this challenge, she focuses her works on the promotion of what she terms “critical spiritualism.” This concept was first mentioned in her novel Bilangan Fu (The Number Fu, 2008) and has permeated all her works since then.
Name: Justina Ayu Utami
Born: Bogor, 1968
Studied at: University of Indonesia, Faculty of Letter, Depok; Tarakanita Catholic High School, Jakarta; Regina Pacis Catholic Elementary School, Bogor
Director of Literature & Ideas Festival (LIFEs) at Salihara. Program Director of Komunitas Utan Kayu. Previous Work: Literary Committee at the Jakarta Arts Council, editor at Kalam Journal on Culture; researcher
at ISAI (Institute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information; Komunitas Utan Kayu; Radio 68H; cofounder of the Alliance of Independent Journalists; journalist at Demokrasi & Reformasi and Forum Keadilan news magazines.
Fellowships (among others): Iowa Writers' Workshop, USA, 2004; Asian Leadership Fellow Program, International House of Japan, 1999.
Awards (among others): The Jakarta Arts Council's Best Novel 1998 for Saman; Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2008 for Bilangan Fu; Ayu was awarded
the 2000 Prince Clause Award and 2008 Mastera (South East Asean Literary Council) Creative Writer Award.
Novels (fiction & nonfiction):
Saman (1998), Larung (2001), The Number Fu (2008), Manjali & Cakrabirawa (2010), Enrico's Love Story (2012), Lalita (2012), The Confession of A (2013), Maya (2014), Simple Miracles
Other genres: The Single Parasite, collection of essays (2003, renewed 2013); The Moral Trial, playscript and collection of essays (2008), Soegija 100% Indonesia,
popular biography of first Indonesian bishop (2012), Kartini & Katini (libretto, 2017)
Co-author: Banal Aesthetics & Critical Spiritualism (with husband & photographer
Erik Prasetya, 2015); The Zodiac Series (with students of Ayu's writing class, 2014)
How-to: A Critical Spiritualist Handbook for Creative Writing and Thinking (2015)