Mochtar Lubis
Lubis in 1979
Born(1922-03-07)7 March 1922
Died2 July 2004(2004-07-02) (aged 82)

Mochtar Lubis ([moxˈtar luˈbɪs]; 7 March 1922 – 2 July 2004) was an Indonesian Batak journalist and novelist who co-founded Indonesia Raya and monthly literary magazine "Horison". His novel Senja di Jakarta (Twilight in Jakarta in English) was the first Indonesian novel to be translated into English. He was a critic of Sukarno and was imprisoned by him.[1]


Lubis was born on 7 March 1922 in Sungai Penuh, Kerinci Regency on Sumatra to Raja Pandapotan Lubis, a high-ranking civil servant, and his wife.[2] He was the sixth child of twelve.[3]

As a child, he wrote children's stories which were published in Sinar Deli, a Medan-based newspaper.[2] When he was an adolescent, he often trekked into the jungles of Sumatra. He later wrote that two events during this period, seeing a well-built yet abandoned hut and having a close call with a tiger, served partly as his inspiration for Harimau! Harimau! (Tiger!, Tiger!)[4]

After graduating from high school, he worked as a teacher in Nias, North Sumatra. However, after a year he left for Batavia, where he worked at a bank. When World War II broke out and the Japanese occupied Indonesia in 1942, Lubis began working for the Japanese, translating international news for the Japanese army.[2]

Lubis c. 1955

After Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, Lubis joined the Indonesian news agency Antara as a reporter.[5] With Antara, he covered the Asian Relations Conference in 1947. During this same period he wrote Jalan Tak Ada Ujung (The Road Has no End) and joined the Indonesian Visual Artists Association.[2]

In 1949, he cofounded Indonesia Raya, later serving as the daily's chief editor. His work there led to him being imprisoned numerous times for his critical writing, including in Madiun, East Java, from 1957 to 1966.[5] In 1955, while he was editor there, he hosted the African American author Richard Wright during his three weeks in Indonesia to attend the Bandung Conference. Indonesia Raya published several articles related to Wright during April and May 1955.[6]

On 4 February 1975, he was arrested in relation to the 1974 riots during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka;[7] Indonesia Raya was also shut down not long after the riots due to their reporting of the Pertamina corruption scandal.[5] He spent over two months in Nirbaya prison without trial and was released on 14 April 1975. He noted that other prisoners, such as former Indonesian Air Force chief Omar Dani, had been imprisoned without trial for years.[7] During his time there, he became an avid practitioner of yoga.[8]

He founded and co-founded numerous magazines and foundations, including the Obor Indonesia Foundation in 1970,[2] Horison magazine, and the Indonesian Green Foundation.[3] He was also outspoken about the need for freedom of the press in Indonesia[5] and gained a reputation as an honest, no-nonsense reporter.[2] In 2000, he was named as one of the International Press Institute's 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the past 50 years.[9]

After a long struggle against Alzheimer's disease he died in Medistra Hospital [id] on 2 July 2004 at age 82.[8] He was buried next to his wife in Jeruk Purut Cemetery.[7] His funeral was attended by hundreds, including journalists and writers Rosihan Anwar and Ramadhan K.H. [id].[8]

He was married to Siti Halimah, who died in 2001. Together they had three children, who produced eight grandchildren.


In 1958, Lubis shared the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts with Robert Dick, a publisher.[10]

Lubis's novel Harimau! Harimau! was named Best Book by Yayasan Buku Utama, a part of the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, in 1975,[11] and received an award from Yayasan Jaya Raya (parent organization of the publisher Pustaka Jaya [id]) in 1979.[12]



Year Title Title in English Notes
1950 Tidak Ada Esok[13] There is No Tomorrow
1952 Jalan Tak Ada Ujung The Never-ending Road Received an award from the Badan Musyawarah Kebudayaan Nasional[13]
1963 Senja di Jakarta Twilight in Jakarta Originally published in English; published in Malay in 1964.[13]
1966 Tanah Gersang Barren Land
1975 Harimau! Harimau! Tiger! Tiger! Nominated best book of the year by Yayasan Buku Utama.[13]
1977 Maut dan Cinta Death and Love Received an award from Yayasan Jaya Raya.[13]

Short story collections

Year Title Title in English
1950 Si Jamal[13] The Beauty
1956 Perempuan[13] Women


  1. ^ Hill, David (1 July 2005). "Mochtar Lubis". Inside Indonesia. Archived from the original on 23 November 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Her Suheryanto (4 April 2010). "A Fresh look at the legacy of Mochtar Lubis". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b A. Junaidi (16 August 2004). "Loyal, outspoken, loved: Mochtar's friends remember". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 9 July 2011. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Lubis & Lamoureux 1991, p. vii
  5. ^ a b c d A. Junaidi (3 July 2004). "Press freedom fighter, writer Mochtar Lubis passes away". The Jakarta Post. Archived from the original on 11 October 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  6. ^ Roberts and Foulcher (2016). Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference. Duke University Press. pp. 67–88.
  7. ^ a b c Warief Djajanto Basorie (9 September 2008). "The irrepressible and intimate Mochtar Lubis". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b c "Press freedom champion Mochtar 'only feared for his Juliet'". The Jakarta Post. 4 July 2004. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  9. ^ "World Press Freedom Heroes: Symbols of courage in global journalism". International Press Institute. 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  10. ^ "The Ramon Magsaysay Awardees by Category – Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts". Ramon Magsaysay Award. Archived from the original on 31 May 2008. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  11. ^ Mahayana, Sofyan & Dian 2007, p. 243
  12. ^ Eneste 2001, p. 61
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Lubis, Mochtar. Harimau! Harimau! Eighth printing. 2008. Yayasan Obor Indonesia: Jakarta. Pp. 213–214. ISBN 978-979-461-109-8.(Taken from the "About the Author" section) (In Indonesian)