Chairil Anwar statue

By all accounts, Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar lived the bohemian lifestyle, a sort of Indonesian equivalent of the great Oscar Wilde. These insalubrious digressions are (it is said) to have accounted for Chairil’s early demise – he passed away on 28 April 1949, aged only 26. But Chairil could write, and he left a great legacy. This poem is my favorite, translated brilliantly by Jakarta veteran John H. McGlynn:

The Seized and the Severed

the darkness and passing wind overtake me
and the room where the one I long for shivers
with night’s penetration; trees stand like dead memorials
but in Karet, yes, Karet Cemetery – my future locale – there, the wind howls, too

I put my room in order, and myself as well, in the chance that you might come
and I may once again unleash a new story for you;
but now it’s only my hands that move, emptily
my body is still and alone, as frozen stories and events pass by


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