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In Conversation with Felix K. Nesi

The young author from West Timor who writes dark, deeply irreverent prose that reflects on Suharto-era violence speaks with Lara Norgaard about the figure of storyteller, the role of humor in discussing state violence, and Javanese hegemony in Indonesian historical narratives.

Introduction and interview by Lara Norgaard

Bacalah hasil wawancara ini dalam aslinya versi bahasa Indonesia aslinya di sini

The story began with soldiers in West Timor telling a little boy to scale a palm tree and grab them a coconut. The boy starts to climb the tree, but a lizard appears and, surprised, the little boy falls to the ground. The soldiers encourage him to kill the lizard in revenge, and force him to wring the animal’s neck by hand. From that moment on, the boy abandons his dream to work in communications when he grows up. Instead, he wants to be a soldier:

“He wanted to fight enemies of the state. Enemies of the state are just like the lizard on the coconut tree. If they aren’t killed, they’re the ones who will kill people.”

From there, chronicles of the comically unlovable character Linus Atoin Aloket in the novel Orang-Orang Oetimu (People of Oetimu) continued. I first heard the story at a reading in Jakarta in August 2019. The author, Felix K. Nesi, is an emerging voice in the Indonesian literary scene, awarded the best novel of the year award for Orang-Orang Oetimu by the Jakarta Arts Council in 2018. Nesi’s novel is set in his home province of East Nusa Tenggara under Suharto’s New Order dictatorship. I was at the reading because of academic interests: I study historical memory of Suharto-era state violence in Indonesian literature comparatively, in the context of contemporary authors’ representations of U.S.-backed, anti-communist dictatorships in Latin America from the same period. At the time, I had not yet read Nesi’s work.

In studying authoritarian pasts, it is unusual to find oneself laughing. But at the reading, as Nesi narrated in a humorously dramatic voice the way in which a broken-hearted Linus failed each exam to enter the Indonesian military before settling for the simpler goal of becoming an undergraduate economics student, I was already chuckling to myself. By the time Nesi got to the part where Linus became the military’s best informant in circles of East Timorese student resistance because he was so thickheaded that no one would believe he was in intelligence, my laughter, and that of the rest of the audience’s, filled the space left by each of Nesi’s dramatic pauses. And yet, during the section when Linus cooks up a scheme to drug college-aged girls, resting on his military connections and his male privilege to get away with the crime, our laughter faltered. Violence punctuated the humor with silence, grounding listeners in the heavy reality of the tale being told.

Later, after Nesi and I connected and became friends, the author sent me an essay he wrote about writing Orang-Orang Oetimu and processing real trauma in his community:

“I write about myself. In the face of so many wounds, research was only necessary for me to wrap up the story. We have known for a long time that something happened and continues to happen, we live in fear, we feel hearts breaking, like when Yanti’s father cries while hitting his daughter. We know something is happening, we just don’t know what it is.”

Nesi exposes systemic violence and its social consequences while his satire mocks institutions at their roots. That allows us to laugh at the absurdity of an authoritarian Indonesia’s triumphant narratives while sharing in the pain of confronting and mourning the past.

In witnessing that performative reading, I saw how compelling Orang-Orang Oetimu was for an Indonesian audience. I soon went on to read the full novel and found that it would be equally important for foreign readers. The book begins not with Linus’s story, but rather with a tale of murderers storming a house in the fictional village of Oetimu after residents gathered to watch the 1998 World Cup. The plot then follows the trials and tribulations of different figures involved in that opening scene, winding back decades to the politics of East Timor in the mid-1970s. Eventually, we return to the untimely deaths that first launched the book, completing a circular structure that resembles the crime story frame in Eka Kurniawan’s Man Tiger and that echoes the cycles of violence expressed in the plot itself.

Orang-Orang Oetimu, in its entirety, is remarkable not only because of its dark humor, but also in the way it brings myriad narrative threads together across this broad, cyclical temporal space. Indeed, within that structure, Nesi conjures new types of characters to join the cast of student activists and political prisoners already canonized in Indonesian literature about political struggle. From Portuguese envoys to Southeast Asia to love-blind Catholic priests and wunderkind high school students, the novel centers on the ripples of political upheaval across social fabric.

The challenges these characters face are inextricably linked to the dictatorship apparatus, but the violence of that structure appears in subtle ways. In one scene, for instance, we receive an explanation of the tedious bureaucratic mechanism a character named Yunus must face if he wants to become a migrant worker:

“Let’s say there are three documents you need to become a migrant worker: document A in the case of X, document B in the case of Y, and document C in the case of Z. In order to get document A for X case, you must first fill out document A1 in X1 case, document A2 in V1 case, document A3 in XII case, accompanied by an informational letter that you are follower of an official religion, as recognized by the government. Whoever isn’t a follower of an official religion won’t just have their application set aside, but they’ll also be taken to the police station to be questioned because they might just be leftover PKI-communists-traitors-of-the-state. To fill out document A1 in the case of X1, you have to first fill out document 1-A1 in case IX, document 2-A1 in case X , document 3-A1 in case I . . . ”

This catalogue of paper-pushing contingencies goes on for nearly a page, until it reaches a sad conclusion for Yunus: 

“All of this isn’t going to happen unless you have bribe money or an inside guy. Unfortunately, Yunus didn’t have either of those two things.”

The character opts to travel to Malaysia with false papers, and is never heard from again.

Part of the reason why the novel feels so fresh is certainly because characters like Yunus, who interact with the Indonesian state from the easternmost region of the country, rarely find representation in widely circulated Indonesian literature. Authors from East Nusa Tenggara are some one of the most underrepresented in the country’s major publishing houses, most of which are based out of Jakarta and other cities on the island of Java. And of the Indonesian authors who find their way into English translation, barely any are from eastern provinces. 

This is not reason alone to highlight an untranslated novel like Orang-Orang Oetimu for an English-speaking audience. More interesting is that the very question of East Nusa Tenggara’s relationship to Indonesia comes to the forefront of this novel. Indeed, Nesi narrates at the intersection of Indonesia’s national political climate and social dynamics local to Timor. In so doing, he expresses the paradoxical reality of a region that exists in the periphery of the Indonesian state while also viscerally experiencing the effects of that state in daily life. This take on Indonesia as a whole, and not on Timor in any essentializing isolation, is one final reason why readers internationally should take note of Orang-Orang Oetimu.

In light of these observations, I met Nesi for an interview while he was visiting Jakarta. We sat down at a coffee shop on a dusty street in the western zone of the city to discuss his approach to storytelling, oral and written, humorous and sobering, national and local. 


Lara Norgaard (LN): I’d like to begin with the question of storytelling in Orang-Orang Oetimu. I really enjoyed attending your reading of the book, and it made me realize the importance of storytellers in the novel as a whole. In addition to the figure of Am Siki, a character who is explicitly a storyteller, the book’s third-person narration at times feels as though it is coming from some sort of storyteller. When you were growing up, did you often listen to stories? Or why do you think there is this sense of a storytelling voice in the novel?

Felix K. Nesi (FKN): In Timor, we have an oral tradition, not a written one. In Java you have Javanese script, but we just tell stories. Usually the stories are folktales, passed down from generation to generation. A new thing, though, is that people really just like to sit, hang out, and tell stories. In villages, a lot of people aren’t caught up in their cellphones, so people get together and tell stories. One or two people are always really fun to listen to. Their stories are based on tales their mothers used to tell them.

I was born in that tradition, a storytelling tradition. That’s why this novel had a narrator at first. The narrator was a storyteller. I got rid of that character later, but the culture of storytelling really does come through. I think I am present in the story. We’re always telling stories in Timor.

LN: What’s it like to come together and tell stories in Timor? Maybe you can describe that in a bit more detail.

FKN:  When I was a kid, we didn’t have electricity. Since we didn’t have electricity, sometimes we’d head out of the house and sometimes even eat outside. After eating, we’d tell stories. Mostly, we’d talk while harvesting corn. When you harvest corn you clean the cobs, and a lot of times that’s when we would tell stories. That’s because people clean corn or peanuts at night. In the afternoon, people would gather corn, and then at night they would truss it so that it could be hung up in peoples’ kitchens. Back then, we’d do that while telling stories. That would happen all the time.

But what I think is more interesting and newer is that nowadays there’s storytelling at parties. Or if someone passes away, there’s always someone telling stories. And in alleyways where young people sit and hang out, people mess around on their phones and just tell stories about whatever. Sometimes they repeat the same stories. The night before they’d already told that one and we all know the ending, but the next day it’s still interesting. We’ll listen and be like, oh wow! The same stories are still fun. I have a lot of friends who are storytellers, who have that role, and I like listening to them. That’s where I got a lot of the stories for my novel. Stories would come up and I’d put them in the book. Jokes and that sort of thing, I’d add them to the novel.

LN: Your novel has a lot of plotlines about Indonesian history, and specifically about violence that took place in Timor. Do people tell stories about those issues?

FKN: Yes. The truth is, those stories aren’t just stories. There actually was war in Timor, and there are stories about how it was like this or that when we were at war. Back then in East Timor, yeah, there’s a lot of that. People talk about how military trucks would run people over. One story after another, just like that, about the past. Military violence always comes up. 

But the thing is, when soldiers or the police commit the violence, people mostly talk about it in a way that’s like, well, not a big deal if soldiers are the ones who beat people up. They aren’t the problem. When police beat people up, we talk about it like it’s nothing, as though it’s not a big issue that police can come to Timor and attack us. That’s how the stories are unless the violence was more random in nature.

LN: Even though the content of your book is very dark, it’s also actually quite funny. I really like your satirical approach. I think with these heavy topics, humor is stronger than extremely serious writing because it allows readers to laugh at corrupt institutions, which I see as a reversal in power.

FKN: If you don’t add that kind of humor, a book with stories like these can be terrible. If there’s no humor, the story becomes too dark and horrifying. Also, sometimes, I think there’s so much anger and frustration and sadness that it becomes a joke. You just have to laugh.

LN: Another important aspect of the book that’s important to point out is how the novel expresses the links between corrupt political institutions and patriarchy. I found the book successful in how it shows male characters systematically abuse their positions of power to take advantage of women sexually.

But this connects to a difficult question. Eka Kurniawan is another author who includes a lot of sexual violence in his work, though his style differs from yours. In an interview with VICE, the magazine asked Kurniawan to respond to a critique that his work is “rape-heavy”. In a similar vein, what is your opinion on the phenomenon of male writers representing rape and sexual violence? 

FKN: It is a bit complicated, men writing about rape and gendered violence. Men, myself included, grow up within a patriarchal culture, which means there is a lot I can’t understand, like how a woman feels or how social structures are really constructed, how the patriarchy has solidified, among other things. 

In terms of my novel, most of what I write about comes from stories that I took from real incidents, ones I found in newspaper clippings, for example. The scene with Linus comes to mind when a woman reports her rape to the police and Linus just causally responds, well, that girl is lying. That was a real story, one that I read in the news. I found a lot of reports detailing the appalling way police treat crimes of sexual violence, which helped me write those sections of my novel. I think it’s something that needs to be written.

I think, first, men need to realize that this kind of violence isn’t far removed. You might ask how to stop this sort of thing, but what’s needed is the realization that it’s close to home. In fact, the potential for that violence might very well be in your own head. We have to realize that first, that this is not some distant thing. That kind of harassment, that intense patriarchy, it’s not distant.

It’s like with the character Tante Yuli, the woman in charge of gardening at the church. Linus goes over to say something to her and then he thinks, oh, never mind, a girl doesn’t need to know that. Men always feel that women don’t need to know certain things, that there are male tasks. And whatever is important is a male task. That’s the sort of thing we have to recognize. 

The problem is men are born and raised in patriarchal societies. So sometimes, we don’t even realize what we’re doing. Like, when we tell our younger sisters to wash our clothes. Hey, wash my clothes! When we’re young, we don’t know that those expectations are bad and that they’re part of the patriarchy. In Timor, that’s viewed as normal. People think there isn’t any problem. If you’re a girl, your task is to wash my clothes. That’s the sort of thing that happens a lot.

LN: Could you recommend a woman writer from Timor?

FKN: My mentor. Her name is Maria Matildis Banda. Ever since I was a kid I would read her writing, which was printed in the local newspaper. She also has a new column where she takes social issues and expresses them in fiction. I learned a lot from her, about social issues and problems that women and children face. And she tells stories in everyday language that people from the kampung can read and understand. These are huge problems, but they can be communicated in the form of a short story.

LN: I’m also interested in the question of Timor’s representation within Indonesia. You include a glossary at the beginning of the novel with words in Uab Metô, Tetum, and even slang, which I found to be a very effective strategy for maintaining local terms in the text. But other than those words in the glossary, do you feel like Orang-Orang Oetimu represents how people from Timor speak on an everyday basis?

FKN: Yes. A lot sentences in the book use structures from East Nusa Tenggara Malay. For instance, this sentence: Nona mau lihat telur yang sudah hangus juga, harus minta izin dulu ya? That’s actually the way we structure sentences, which is different than in formal Indonesian.

LN: How so?

FKN: In this example, I would just need to switch “kah” with “ya”. Harus minta izin dulu, kah? That’s a structure we’d use in East Nusa Tenggara. For standard Indonesian, the same sentence would start with the word “apakah”. Apakah kamu harus minta izin dulu, hanya untuk melihat telur yang sudah hangus? Something like that. Apakah kamu harus minta izin dulu padahal telur sudah hangus?

My friends like the book because it reads like the way they talk. It’s in standard Indonesian, but the structures are the ones we use in East Nusa Tenggara.

LN: In terms of content and this question of East Nusa Tenggara’s representation, to what extent do experiences in Timor line up with Indonesia’s national historical narratives, which are often written from Java?

FKN: A lot of times they don’t connect. Narratives written from Java really don’t connect to East Nusa Tenggara because they’re rarely similar. It’s so far away that it’s hard to imagine. What Javanese people write about the region is sometimes not right at all.

East Nusa Tenggara’s history, in general, is absent from national history. People in Jakarta write history books and then send them to the province. Sometimes we can’t find East Nusa Tenggara in that history, our national history. Just a few stories about the history of the Penfui War, the Oesao War, the long Amanuban kingdom war, or the Fanu Nimtuka war, for example.  It’s just not in our national history. And children from the region grow up studying history, but their history is a national one in which East Nusa Tenggara doesn’t appear. It just isn’t there.

This interview, translated from the Indonesian, was edited and condensed for clarity.

Lara Norgaard (LN): Saya mau mulai dengan aspek pendongeng di Orang-Orang Oetimu. Saya suka sekali menghadiri acara pembacaan buku tersebut dan, sebetulnya, saya menyadari bahwa ada pendongeng di dalam bukunya. Ada tokoh Am Siki, dan ada sebuah narasi orang ketiga yang punya semacam aspek pendongeng. Jadi, waktu Anda kecil, apakah Anda mendengarkan cerita-cerita dari pendongeng, atau mengapa ada aspek itu di buku ini? 

Felix K. Nesi (FKN): Karena kami tinggal di Timor, kami hanya punya kultur bercerita, bukan menulis. Kalau orang Jawa, mereka punya aksara di bahasa Jawa, tapi kami hanya bercerita. Biasanya cerita itu cerita dongeng, lalu cerita garis-garis keturunan. Yang paling baru, akhir-akhir ini orang memang selalu suka duduk dan bercerita, nongkrong. Karena di kampung, ada juga yang belum sibuk dengan HP, orang berkumpul, bercerita. Selalu ada satu orang atau dua orang yang menarik sekali ceritanya, untuk didengarkan. Yang diceritakan adalah kejadian-kejadian berdasarkan dari ibu-ibu. 

Saya lahir di kultur itu, kultur bercerita. Makanya, saat menulis novel ini, awalnya naratornya itu ada. Jadi naratornya itu pendongeng. Lalu memang saya hilangkan tokoh naratornya di situ, dan tetap terdengar seperti memang kultur bercerita itu. Saya pikir saya hidup di situ. Kami selalu senang bercerita di Timor. 

LN: Bagaimana pengalaman berkumpul untuk bercerita di Timor? Mungkin bisa menjelaskannya lebih jauh.  

FKN: Kalau malam-malam dulu, waktu saya kecil, kami tidak punya listrik. Karena kami tidak punya listrik, jadi kadang kami turun di luar rumah, kadang kami juga makan di luar rumah. Sesudah makan, kadang kami bercerita. Terlebih saat-saat seperti panen jagung, panen jagung itu kan orang harus bersihkan jagung. Dan itu banyak sekali cerita. Orang membersihkan jagung atau panen kacang karena orang melakukan itu di malam. Jadi waktu siang, mereka mengumpulkan jagung, malam, mereka mengikat jagung itu supaya bisa digantung di para-para dapur. Nah, waktu itu, kami lakukan sambil bercerita. Kami duduk, itu banyak sekali. 

Tapi saya pikir yang menarik, yang paling baru itu bahwa ada di tempat pesta, atau kalau ada orang meninggal, selalu ada orang yang duduk dan bercerita. Atau di tempat nongkrong di gang-gang, anak muda itu suka duduk berkumpul di situ, menyalakan HP, terus bercerita. Cerita apa saja. Kadang ceritanya diulang-ulang, malam kemarin sudah diceritakan, kami semua sudah tahu endingnya seperti apa. Tapi besoknya tetap menarik, ya gitu! Mendengar dan oooooh yaaaa, wow! Seperti itu. Itu tetap senang didengarkan. Dan iya, saya punya banyak sekali teman-teman, tokoh-tokoh, yang saya suka dengar. Dan di novel saya ini, banyak cerita-cerita yang saya masukkan, muncul-muncul cerita di situ, dan masukkan ke dalam. Lelucon dan lain lain, itu saya masukkan ke dalam novel.

LN: Di buku ini, ada banyak alur cerita tentang sejarah Indonesia dan kekerasan yang terjadi di Nusa Tenggara Timur. Orang-orang bercerita tentang itu atau tidak? 

FKN: Iya. Sebenarnya, kebiasaan cerita itu tidak melulu tentang dongeng. Tapi yang sebenarnya adalah kemarin ada perang di Timor. Cerita bahwa di Timor itu waktu perang kadang-kadang seperti ini, seperti itu. Waktu Timor Timur, iya, itu banyak sekali. Orang-orang bercerita, seperti orang-orang yang ditabrak truk tentara. Iya, ceritanya satu per satu seperti itu, masa lalu. Selalu diceritakan kekerasan-kekerasan tentara. 

Cuman, kalau masalah kekerasan yang dilakukan oleh tentara, dilakukan oleh polisi, itu, kadang orang-orang bercerita dengan, wah, itu tidak apa-apa tentara memukuli orang. Mereka bukan masalah. Polisi memukuli orang, mereka akan bercerita dengan santai. Sepertinya itu bukan suatu masalah besar kalau ada polisi datang berkelahi, kecuali cerita-cerita dalam bentuk perselisihan.

LN: Meskipun kontennyakonten ini sangat gelap, buku Anda masih lucu sekali. Saya sangat suka gaya satir itu. Menurut saya, ini lebih kuat daripada buku-buku lain yang juga bicara soal topik-topik berat tersebut, tetapi dengan pendekatan yang terlalu serius.Menurut saya, ini lebih kuat daripada buku yang pendekatannya terlalu serius mengenai topik-topik berat yang tersebut. Karena kita bisa tertawa tentang institusi-institusi yang korup, dan itu menjadi suatu inversi di kekuasaan. 

FKN: Kalau tidak ditambahi humor itu, cerita-cerita seperti itu menjadi terlalu menakutkan. Kalau tidak ditambahi dengan humor itu, itu menjadi cerita yang gelap, mengerikan. Saya pikir, juga banyak hal-hal seperti kemarahan, kejengkelan itu, kadang karena terlalu sedih dan terlalu menjengkelkan, kadang lelucon. Iya, ditertawakan saja. 

LN: Satu komponen yang lain yang patut diperhatikan adalah bagaimana ada tautan antara institusi politik korup dan patriarki. Jadi, sepanjang alur cerita, kita bisa melihat bagaimana orang laki-laki dengan kekuasaan memanfaatkan perempuan untuk seks.

Ini berhubungan dengan hal yang lebih rumit. Anda pasti sudah pernah membaca Eka Kurniawan, dan dia menulis banyak tentang kekerasan terhadap perempuan juga, dengan gaya yang berbeda dari Anda. Dan di sebuah wawancara dengan VICE, ada kritik tentang buku-buku dia. Majalahnya meminta dia membalas kritik bahwa karyanya “rape-heavy”, ada banyak pemerkosaan. Apa pendapat Anda tentang fenomena penulis laki-laki yang merepresentasikan pemerkosaan dan kekerasan terhadap perempuan? 

FKN: Agak sedikit rumit sebenarnya, laki-laki menulis tentang pemerkosaan dan kekerasan terhadap perempuan. Laki-laki sendiri, seperti saya sendiri, dibesarkan dalam kultur patriarki. Jadi, kadang-kadang itu ada banyak hal yang saya sendiri tidak bisa mengerti. Apa yang perempuan rasakan, bagaimana struktur sosial dibangun, patriarki menjadi kuat dan banyak hal lain. 

Di dalam buku saya ini, kebanyakan itu saya ambil dari kejadian-kejadian sebenarnya. Misalnya, yang sehari-hari dan potongan-potongan kliping di koran. Saya ingat adegan Linus, ketika perempuan itu melapor ke polisi dan Linus dengan santainya menjawab, Wah, perempuan itu bohong. Itu kejadian nyata, saya baca beritanya. Saya sering menemukan berita yang menunjukkan bagaimana polisi kita menanggapi kasus kekerasan seksual dengan keliru.Banyak sekali berita-berita yang saya dapat tentang bagaimana polisi mendekat kasus kekerasan seksual dengan mengerikan. Itu cukup membantu saya untuk menuliskan yang seperti ini. Saya pikir itu harus dituliskan. 

Saya pikir, laki-laki perlu sadar dulu bahwa kekerasan-kekerasan seperti itu, itu tidak jauh. Minta bagaimana untuk mencegah hal-hal seperti itu, tapi yang diperlukan itu kan kesadaran bahwa itu tidak jauh. Bahkan di dalam kepalamu sendiri mungkin ada potensi itu. Kita harus sadar dulu bahwa itu bukan sesuatu yang jauh. Pelecehan itu bukan sesuatu yang jauh, patriarki yang berlebihan, ya.

Seperti dengan karakter Tante Yuli, perempuan tukang siram bunga. Jadi, ketika Linus mau mengatakan sesuatu dan Linus Oh, jangan, dia perempuan, jadi tidak perlu tahu. Jadi, kita selalu merasa bahwa perempuan itu tidak perlu tahu. Itu urusan laki-laki. Yang penting itu urusan laki-laki. Saya pikir perlu sadar dulu. 

Masalahnya karena itu, laki-laki lahir dan besar di kultur itu, kultur patriarki. Kadang kita sendiri tidak sadar dengan apa yang kita buat. Seperti kita suruh adik perempuan cuci pakaian. Eh, cucikan pakaian saya! Nah, kalau kecil seperti itu kita tidak tahu bahwa itu adalah sesuatu yang patriarki dan buruk sekali. Dan kalau di Timor, itu normal. Semua, tidak masalah, kamu perempuan, tugas kamu adalah cuci pakaian saya. Kadang seperti itu yang terjadi. 

LN: Apakah Anda bisa merekomendasikan seorang penulis perempuan dari Timor? 

FKN: Guru saya. Namanya Maria Matildis Banda. Sejak saya kecil, saya baca tulisan-tulisanya. Tulisan-tulisan itu dibuat di koran lokal. Dia punya suatu kolom juga yang baru, seperti masalah-masalah sosial, dia bahasakan dalam bentuk fiksi. Saya belajar banyak dari dia seperti masalah-masalah sosial, masalah perempuan, masalah anak. Iya, dia ceritakan dalam bahasa sehari-hari yang orang di kampung pun akan baca dan paham. Ini ada satu isu besar tetapi dia bisa sampaikan dalam bentuk cerita kecil. 

LN: Saya juga tertarik tentang representasi Timor di Indonesia. Ada daftar istilah di awal bukunya dengan kata-kata di bahasa Uab Metô, Tetun, sampai slang. Itu strategi yang bagus untuk tidak harus menerjemahkan semua istilah daerah itu sepanjang alur cerita. Tetapi, selain daftar itu dan kata-kata itu, apakah Anda merasa bahwa buku Anda merepresentasikan bagaimana orang-orang di daerah Anda sebetulnya berbicara sehari-hari? 

FKN: Iya. Saya pikir banyak kalimat-kalimat di sini dalam struktur bahasa melayu NTT. Misalnya struktur-struktur ini: “Nona mau lihat telur yang sudah hangus juga, harus minta izin dulu ya?”. Itu sebenarnya struktur kalimat NTT. Jadi dia berbeda dengan bahasa Indonesia baku.

LN: Bagaimana kalau kalimat itu di bahasa Indonesia baku? 

FKN: Ini saya hanya perhalus dengan mengganti kan, dengan “ya”. Harus minta izin dulu, kah? Itu struktur di NTT. Kalau bahasa Indonesia, dia akan menjadi, dia mulai dengan kata apakah. “Apakah kamu harus minta izin dulu, hanya untuk melihat telur yang sudah hangus?” Seperti itu. “Apakah kamu harus minta izin dulu padahal telur sudah hangus?”.

Ini buat teman-teman saya senang baca, karena mereka seperti membaca struktur bahasa mereka. Dalam bahasa Indonesia baku tapi struktur-struktur percakapannya itu, bahasa-bahasa struktur-struktur NTT. 

LN: Terkait dengan konten dan representasi NTT, sampai taraf apa pengalaman-pengalaman NTT cocok dengan narasi sejarah Indonesia yang ditulis oleh orang Jawa? 

FKN: Kadang-kadang tidak nyambung. Narasi yang ditulis orang Jawa itu, gitu kan, tidak nyambung. Karena memang jarang mirip, jauh sekali ya, jadi sulit dibayangkan. Apa yang ditulis orang jawa tentang NTT itu kadang tidak tepat sama sekali. 

Sejarah NTT sendiri, kadang tidak ada di dalam nasional. Orang di Jakarta menulis buku sejarah, terus mengirimkannya ke NTT. Kadang kita tidak bisa menemukan NTT di dalam sejarah itu, sejarah nasional. Hanya sangat sedikit cerita-cerita misalnya tentang perang Penfui, perang Oesao, perang panjang raja Amanuban, dan perang Fanu Nimtuka. Itu tidak ada di dalam sejarah nasional. Dan anak NTT itu tumbuh belajar sejarah, tetapi dia belajar sejarah nasional, yang mana kadang itu NTT tidak hadir di situ. Tidak ada di situ.