A Blanket of Dust

An Afghan buyer goes to the market, asks for the price of a head of a goat.

The buyer    : “How much?”

The vendor  : “50 Afghani.” A dollar.

The buyer    : “Too much. How about 20?”

The vendor  : “20? Are you crazy? Do you think this is a human head?””

Yet in the country where a human’s head is cheaper than a goat’s head, you will discover how precious it is to be an Afghan.

This is exactly how Agustinus Wibowo fell in love with Afghanistan since the first sight. The traveler started his love story with Afghanistan as a clueless backpacker who traveled through the landmines just two years after the Taliban. He then came again, speaking a local language, hitchhiked around the country by taking trucks, horses, and even donkeys.

From its peaceful snowcapped mountains of the Roof of the World to the terrorized southern deserts, from its ancient cities to the legendary Central Route, from the ironic jokes of teahouses to the rape attempts of the boy-players, the author seeks to discover an Afghanistan untold by the media. A colorful Afghanistan beneath its blanket of dust.


BORDERLINES: A Journey to Central Asia

Not unlike the oxygen, the border is invisible, yet each of our breadth is affected by it.

A river of twenty meter width separates Afghanistan from Tajikistan a century away. Tajikistan boasts its national heroes and ancient cities, yet the same heroes and cities are also claimed by the neighboring Uzbekistan. A Dungan Muslim in Kyrgyzstan longs for his ancestral land in China, yet a Kazakh is proud to speak Russian better than the Russians themselves. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan is isolated in its own utopia, under the shine of the Great Leader who promised a Golden Century to the whole nation.

Central Asia possesses among the world’s most absurd history and borders. Seduced by the mystery of “the Stans”, Agustinus Wibowo crossed the border river of Afghanistan and explored the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics to understand what it means to belong to one nation, one people, one custom and one reality.

With his critical eye of a journalist, yet also with the irony and humor of a visiting tourist, not only Agustinus will accompany you to enjoy the rough roads and thrilling adventures to the most improbable borders, but also to explore the borders that reside inside the deepest corner of your mind.




GROUND ZERO: When Journey Takes You Home

After ten years wandering the world, the traveler is finally home. He is forced to come face to face with one reality he was always feared. His mother is in the brink of life and death, as cancer continues to ravage her body.

The traveler sits on the edge of his mother’s bed. Not unlike Scherazade who reads through one thousand and one tales for just as many nights, he recounts his journey, page after page, to his dying mother who has barely ever left their little village in Java, Indonesia. He talks about the illusory homeland of China, the holy Tibet, the spiritual Nepal, the dramatic India, the struggling Pakistan, the surviving Afghanistan… She also starts to recount her silenced life journey. Bits and pieces of their lives come together, two distinctive roads spanning across time and distance only to converge, to become a heart-wrenching tale of love and survival.


Literary Translation



(Translation from Chinese to Indonesian)

To Live – Hidup by Yu Hua (余华)

Dari seorang anak tuan tanah kaya yang menghabiskan waktu di meja judi dan ranjang pelacur, Fugui kehilangan harta dan orang-orang yang dicintainya. Dia berusaha bertahan hidup di tengah kekejaman perang saudara, absurditas Revolusi Kebudayaan, hingga bencana kelaparan yang melanda China akibat kekeliruan kebijakan Mao. Kisah tragis kehidupan seorang Fugui merangkum kengerian perjalanan sejarah negeri China di tengah ingar-bingar revolusi komunis.

To Live adalah karya kontroversial salah satu novelis terbaik China yang sempat dilarang beredar di China, telah meraih berbagai penghargaan sastra internasional, difilmkan, dan telah diterjemahkan ke lebih dari 20 bahasa. Dengan kata-katanya yang sederhana namun bergemuruh dan menggugah, Yu Hua bercerita tentang sebuah China. Yang begitu nyata, tanpa basa-basi.