Interview Four Questions to Marius Hulpe - Makassar International Writer Festival

Makassar International Writer Festival © Goethe-Institut Indonesien
Makassar International Writer Festival © Goethe-Institut Indonesien

When I arrived at the festival, it instantly became clear that poetry also plays an important role in the book culture. Indonesians are very interested in literature.

The Makassar International Writers Festival 2016 (MIWF) took place from 18 to 21 May in Makassar, a city located on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. It provided a stage for both local as well as international poets, authors and speakers to introduce their works and have discussions with the audience. The MIWF can be seen as a platform to bring together authors, journalists, students, artists and literary enthusiasts.

The Goethe-Institut Indonesien invited German author Marius Hulpe to participate in the festival. Mr. Hulpe joined the international seminar "In Translations We Believe" and the workshop "The essential things in poetry" as expert speaker. In addition, he hosted a reading together with Indonesian author Aan Mansyur and held a workshop for German language students at the Universitas Negeri Makassar.

Mr. Hulpe, you have already been to Indonesia 14 years ago. What expectations did you have for your trip to Sulawesi?

On one hand, there were strictly practical things to consider. 14 years ago, for example, I had a vaccination against malaria, which wasn't a good idea. This time, I came without vaccination. On the other hand, I still had a lot of images in my head. The last time I was in Bali, and I was looking forward to compare the images in my head with the ones I was about to see. I noticed that coming back to a place after a long time really is something beautiful.
What will you remember most from the time you spent in Indonesia?

Definitely the indescribable enthusiasm of the Indonesian readers. I never experienced anything like this in Germany during literary events, not even when very well-known authors were involved. Actually, you might say that I was treated like a pop star: everywhere I was asked for my autograph or to take a selfie. Hundreds, even thousands, I can't even remember anymore. Prior to my departure I had read an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that poetry does hold a rather significant value in Indonesia but mostly spoken poetry. When I arrived at the festival, it instantly became clear that poetry also plays an important role in the book culture. Indonesians are very interested in literature.
How did you like the Makassar International Writers Festival 2016?

It is a unique festival with very different formats that relate to various interest and age groups, from a release reading of a novel to symposia about poetry and translations, conferences on cultural policy, poetological lounges, concerts and a sing-and-play event for children - it was all included. It somewhat reminded me of the Prosanova festival in Hildesheim, but the Makassar festival was bigger and more tropical.

You had the possibility to get a better insight into the Indonesian literary scene. What kind of impression are you taking back from this encounter?

I was especially happy and impressed about the fact that you can really win over the audience here. Of course, the text must be the right one, but equally important is the performance. It doesn't seem to matter if they see a rock band from the US on stage or a poet from Germany. The most important thing is that there is a certain vibe, and that the artists dedicate themselves to the audience. If you follow this advice you will have a great time and lots of fun on an Indonesian stage - if the text also comes across.