Profile: Korrie Layun Rampan: Kalimantan’s Wordsmith Turns Politician

14 Jan

The Jakarta Post
November 10, 2007

Korrie Layun Rampan: Kalimantan wordsmith turns politician

Oyos Saroso H.N. , The Jakarta Post, Banjarmasin

Three years of working as a politician in his homeland of West
Kutai, East Kalimantan, has not let the attention of novelist
Korrie Layun Rampan, one of the nation’s most well known short
story writers and arguably the best literary critic in
Indonesia, drift from his concerns with the development of
Indonesian literature.

The case was proved when Korrie Layun Rampan won the fifth
Indonesian Short Story Congress (KCI) prize in Banjarmasin,
South Kalimantan, at the end of October, 2007.

At that event Korrie Layun Rampan did not just feature as one of
the stars. Korrie also took part as a discussion panelist
talking about the problems of using local color in the writing
of Indonesian short stories.

He also showed that he remains an acute observer and, till now,
one of the best critics of Indonesian literature. That claim was
proved with his lucid comments about Indonesian authors and the
growth of Indonesian literature, right through to the most
up-to-date authors.

Korrie has long been famous as a writer and as an insightful
critic of Indonesian literature. His work, observations and
criticisms of Indonesian literature have been collected in more
than 200 books.

They include seven novels, 31 short story collections, seven
poetry collections, 11 collections of literary criticism, 35
children’s storybooks, six books about Indonesian literary
giants and seven books about writing. Apart from this
significant output, his works have also been published in more
than 80 anthologies.

Even though he has produced hundreds of books, Korrie is still
downhearted. First because he has had great difficulties in
organizing the Korrie Layun Rampan collection that is located in
Bekasi, West Java, and in Jakarta.

His second disappointment is because so many of his writings
have yet to be published.

In the world of Indonesian literature, Korrie is a diligent
bibliographer. He can be compared to H.B. Jassin who in his time
became an icon of criticism and a great classifier of Indonesian

Korrie confessed he wanted to take his own collection to East
Kalimantan. “But that would be extremely expensive because if we
brought the books by ship we’d need some containers. In West
Kutai I still don’t have a house. My house in Bekasi is still
there. But in the land where I was born, I still rent,” said the
father of six children.

The materials he would like to move include typescripts ready
for printing and piled to a height of more than 2.5 meters.
According to Korrie, there are many books that could be
classified as literature and are awaiting publication. But that
has not happened because few publishers are willing to take the

“The publishers are afraid because they think that literature
doesn’t sell. Publishers are more interested in promoting
popular works than works of literature. And then there are the
essays and literary criticisms that few publishers want to
produce,” he said.

The man of letters who has lived for a long time in Yogyakarta
and Jakarta confessed that he was very disappointed the
publication of two volumes of his work about the literary
figures of the generation of 2000 had been canceled by a famous
publisher in Indonesia.

“The first volume is titled Generation 2000 in Indonesian
Literature . If the two volumes are published they will mark the
most up-to-date developments in Indonesian literature. But I
don’t want to give up. Although many of my works haven’t been
published yet I still keep writing poetry, short stories and
literary criticism.

“One of my novels recently won a competition that was held by
the Jakarta Arts Council,” said the winner of the Art Prize
sponsored by the Indonesian government.

This writer, who has Dayak blood, revealed that although he is
now involved in the world of politics — Korrie became the head
of the Democrat Party in the West Kutai regency legislature —
he finds the literary world impossible to quit.

“Literature is my calling, it’s my soul. Now I try to create a
balance between my activities in the world of literature with
those in the world of politics. I have proved the two really can
run side by side,” said the first prizewinner in the novel
section at the Jakarta Arts Council in 1976.

Korrie was born in Samarinda on Aug. 17, 1953. When he was a
young man Korrie lived for a long time in Yogyakarta. While
studying at university in Yogyakarta, Korrie was active in many
literary activities. He joined the study group Persada Studi
Klub (PSK — homeland literary club), which was then led by the
poet Umbu Landu Paranggi.

The PSK, which coordinated hundreds of literary activities, also
nurtured many famous literary identities, including Emha Ainun
Nadjib, Linus Suryadi AG, Achmad Munif, Arwan Tuti Artha, Ragil
Suwarna Pragolapati, Iman Budhi Santosa, Suminto A Sayuti,
Naning Indratni, Yudhistira ANM, Massardi and Gunoto Saparie.

In 1978, Korrie moved to Jakarta and was employed as a
journalist and book editor in publishing companies. From the
1980s to the 1990s he worked as a broadcaster with the
Indonesian Republic Radio and at TVRI’s studio headquarters in
Jakarta. He also taught and became financial director and an
editor of Sarinah magazine in Jakarta.

It was always his intention to introduce reforms to his homeland
in West Kutai, East Kalimantan. He set up a newspaper Sentawar
Pos in 2001 while he taught at Sentawar University in West
Kutai, East Kalimantan.

In the 2004 election he stood as a candidate for the Democratic
Party contesting a seat in the Legislative Assembly as a member
of West Kutai regency. Now Korrie is a member of the West Kutai
regency legislature for the 2004-2009 term.

Although he has become an MP, Korrie remains an active writer
because he also sees his job as being a journalist and cultural
ambassador. This involves regular trips between West Kutai and

As an author, Korrie has become famous for his creativity. Many
of his works have been published, including novels, short
stories, poetry, children’s stories and essays.

He has also translated around 100 titles of children’s
storybooks and dozens of short stories from around the world,
including the works of short story writers like Leo Tolstoy, Guy
de Maupassant
, Knut Hamsun, Anton Chekhov, O Henry and Luigi

His novel Ceremony won a prize in the novel-writing section of
the Jakarta Arts Council in 1976. Another novel titled Api, Awan
Asap (Fire, Cloud, Smoke) won a similar prize in 1998. His short
stories, essays, book reviews, film scripts and his journalism
have won him prizes in many contests.

Children’s stories that he has written have also won prizes from
the Yayasan Buku Utama (the foundation for significant books)
and the Culture and Education Department, namely Cuaca di Atas
Gunung dan Lembah , (the Weather atop the Mountain and Hill)
1985 and Manusia Langit (Heavenly Man) 1997.

Many of his books have been listed as reading and reference
texts in elementary, junior high and senior high schools, and at
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