Goenawan Mohamad has been a formidable Indonesian journalist for half a century, chiefly as the founder and editor of the weekly Tempo. He is also the foremost public intellectual of his complex nation: one who has witnessed the many tragedies of our largest neighbour. Mohamad developed the short essay as a powerful and sophisticated literary vehicle to express both his freedom of thought and to defend his compatriots' freedom of expression. In many Asian countries, risen from the ruins of empires, this democratic freedom needs constant vigilance.
Mohamad's new collection is titled In Other Words, but the writer really takes us into many other worlds. In these hundred pieces, selected from a couple of thousand and crafted over five decades, the writer's distinctive voice is vivid, and his desire to forge his nation in the contemporary world is profound and engaging. His gift is such that he brings to his readers the world of books and the lives of people so close to his Indonesian identity and experience. One can see how he tries to keep his readers both well-informed and well-educated through these 800-word weekly columns.