Laksmi Pamuntjak




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(Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789385755309 | 424 pages | November 2016)


Myth, culture and politics weave together in a beguiling tale of profound love.

Named after a tragic figure in Indonesia’s and India’s shared mythology, Amba spends her lifetime trying to invent a story she can call her own. When she meets two suitors who fit perfectly into her namesake’s myth, Amba cannot help but feel that fate is teasing her. Salwa, respectful to a fault, pledges to honour and protect her, no matter what. Bhisma, a sophisticated European-trained doctor, offers her sensual pleasures and a world of ideas.

In this devastating novel of love and redemption, empathy and forgiveness, Amba, Bhisma and Salwa attempt to undo the ancient legend of the Mahabharata—that timeless allegory of war within a family—with tragic consequences, as the story moves from rural Java to Europe and to the prison camps of Buru Island, where approximately 12,000 alleged communists were incarcerated without trial during the Suharto dictatorship. Through its memorable cast of characters—each of them a metaphor for the vast diversity that is Indonesia—the novel asks us not to see history in terms of ‘black’ and ‘white’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but highlights, instead, the grey zones of human existence and the human spirit. It also shows us ways in which men and women often attain their highest humanity at the point of destruction.


Click here to read an excerpt from the book.


‘[Amba] signals Laksmi Pamuntjak’s bravery and scope as a writer, and may yet prove to be a landmark work of Southeast Asian writing.’
—Tash Aw, author of Five Star Billionaire and The Harmony Silk Factory

‘Great literature lights our way and helps us to understand distant worlds; the best books make us part of those worlds—with all their horror, as well as their resplendence and intelligence. That’s the kind of literature that Laksmi Pamuntjak writes.’
—Jose Eduardo Agualusa, author of A General Theory of Oblivion, shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and The Book of Chameleons, winner of the 2007 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

‘With passion and exemplary commitment, Pamuntjak brings to life a forgotten era of turbulence, with its casualties, its victims, and its perpetrators. I was immersed in the novel’s world for a week, and when I emerged I was spellbound for days.’
—Aamer Hussein, author of The Cloud Messenger and Another Gulmohar Tree

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About the author

Laksmi Pamuntjak

Laksmi Pamuntjak is a bilingual Indonesian novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, and an award-winning food writer. Amba: The Question of Red, her bestselling first novel, won Germany’s LiBeraturpreis 2016 and was named #1 on Germany’s Fall 2015 Weltempfaenger list of the best works of fiction translated into German from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Arab […]

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