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Book Tunes: Love, Lies and Indomee

Indonesian writer Nuril Basri has been touted as one of the hot rising stars of the literary scene back home. His novels, Halo, Aku Dalam Novel (2009), Romantis (2015), Enak (2016), Sunyi (2017), and Not a Virgin (2017) have been critically acclaimed. Nuril was a grantee of the Indonesian National Book Committee’s writing residency in the UK in 2017. In 2018, he was a grantee of the “Crossing Borders” programme, which is jointly run by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. The novel, Love, Lies and Indomee,
is the English translation of
Enak. Here, he shares his idea of the
perfect soundtrack to the novel. 


For me, the writing process is always mysterious. In Love, Lies and Indomee, the main character, Ratu, who is working as a secretary for police attache in the Korean Embassy, is a very cynical girl. She thinks she is fat and not pretty. She doesn't believe that anything romantic will happen to a girl like her. Up until these two guys appear in her life. However, Ratu is burdened by the idea of whether they have an agenda. 

I didn't have any agenda when I first started writing Love, Lies and Indomee, or Enak, as it was called in Indonesia. I just thought it was a good story subject to be written about.

All I knew was that I wanted to write about a fat girl as the main character. But not a miserable one. I wanted to make her strong and realistic. That's when Ratu, which means "queen", came to my mind. The songs here are tracks that I love, that inspired or helped my writing or ones that I believe Ratu herself would love.  

* * * * * *
Parasit – Gita Gutawa

It’s an Indonesian song that came first when I started writing the story. This song is about a boy who leeches off his girlfriend – a parasite; exactly the thing that Hans does to Ratu. The tune has a very upbeat tempo and funny but realistic lyrics. This song can be sung as a happy "f*** off" to ex-boyfriends – and then wallowing in sadness afterward because the boys we’ve loved have just used us like an ATM.


Can’t Pin Me Down – Marina and the Diamonds

“Do you really want me to write a feminist anthem/ I'm happy cooking dinner in the kitchen for my husband/ Yeah, yeah.”

If my character Ratu were a real person, she would want me to include this song. This song is so on point for a modern girl like her, especially when she cooks instant noodles for her husband’s dinner. Liking to cook for your loved one doesn’t make you less a feminist. She just wants to do what she wants to do. And let not other people define her.

“I am never gonna give you anything you expect/
You think I'm like the others/
Boy, you need to get your eyes checked, checked.”


Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) – MIKA

"Walks into the room/ Feels like a big balloon/
Big girl, you are beautiful/
Diet Coke and a pizza, please/ Diet Coke, I'm on my knees/
Screaming, 'Big girl, you are beautiful'"
Ratu feels this sometimes. Walking into a room, she feels like a big balloon and, ugh, she hates being herself sometimes. But that’s what she is and she eventually embraces that. She’s ordering a Diet Coke and pizza because – why not? Everyone should listen to this song and celebrate their body positively! Just like Ratu does. 


Twinkle by Girls’ Generation-TTS

I’m always imagining Ratu secretly listening to this song in front of her computer, stealing time between her jobs as a secretary in the embassy. Lip-synching and dancing on her chair while no one is looking, pretending she’s a member of the girl band. She will freeze when someone passes by as if nothing has happened. It’s like she’s saying: “I hate these skinny girls, but I like their song and I want to sing it. Boy, this song is da bomb! I’m so bitchy and sexy yeah, look at me twinkling at you!” LOL!


Taylor Swift – Never Ever Getting Back Together

Ratu sings this song for her ever more never-ending breakups. She hates handsome Hans for being incapable: they broke up and promise they were never ever getting back together. But they ended up getting back together anyway. Why? Because she loves him. He’s too cute to let go even after what he’s done. For Ratu, this song is easier said than done!


He Wasn’t Man Enough – Toni Braxton

“That guy that can spill the truth to you/ the one that can’t be honest/ or the one who doesn’t want to marry you/ he wasn’t man enough!”

This is the song Ratu would pick for Hans.


There You’ll Be – Faith Hill

Every love story needs an accompanying ballad. One that is grand enough to close the show with or to accompany a dramatic act, or to be belted out in the shower room. I wanted to use "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, but I kept remembering the sinking ship. However, this one, which was used in Pearl Harbor, made me remember, er, the war and exploding vehicles. And it is also about a pilot – which is close enough to what the character Inu is, as he likes to ride his motorcycle and is "pilot" of his own motorbike (ojek). Now imagine the scene with Ratu and Inu on the motorbike in the middle of the night after the rain, her scarf flying around her, with her arms spread like Kate Winslet in Titanic as this song plays in the background.


Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benatar

This is the best "attitude" song for Ratu whenever she feels very down and needs a wake-up call. It's like she is saying: "Hit me with your best shot ... but I'm still standing!" It’s her anthem, challenging Life and whatsoever that comes with it. She’s strong, but also weak at the same time. But aren’t we all? Challenge Life anyway. It's hard, but be strong, anyway.

Get your copy of Love, Lies and Indomee here.

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