A prominent Indonesian literary figure although considered among the non-productive. His most successful novel is Atheis (1948-1949). He belongs to the "older generation" of writers who is respected as a writer and humanist.
Kartamihardja was born in Garut, West Java, on March 6, 1911. His father was a bookkeeper in a plantation in the city. He was intelligent as a child. His grades upon graduating MULO (Dutch junior high school) was something to be proud of. As a result his father hoped that one day he would become a law graduate. However Kartamihardja became an author. Previously he taught at the Sekolah Taman Siswa Jakarta (The Jakarta Students Park School) and the Australian National University in Canberra, where he resided. He became an editor at the Balai Pustaka, Head of the Jawatan Kebudayaan Perwakilan Jakarta Raya (The Head of the Cultural Service, Jakarta Representative), lecturer at the Faculty of Literature, University of Indonesia (1956-1961), and since 1961 until he retired worked as a professor of Indonesian literature at the Australian National University, Canberra.
During the time before 1945 he was a journalist and worked for the Balai Pustaka. Subsequently he became familiarly associated with Chairil Anwar and people of the Republic. Politically he was more inclined towards Sjahrir. As the atmosphere began to heat up during the Old Order, he moved to Australia, and settled in Canberra. Only one of his children currently lives in Indonesia.
Kartamihardja’s literary works mostly highlights aspects of human behavioural weaknesses. His plots are usually interesting, with the placement characters in unusual situations. From these situations he begins to explore basic human weaknesses that are universal.
His famous novel, Atheis (1948-1949) caused a public stir since it’s first publication. The novel which is one of the modern masterpieces of Indonesian literature was repeatedly printed and translated into English. After Atheis, he more often wrote short stories, which were later collected into several books: Keretakan dan Ketegangan (1956), Kesan dan Kenangan (1960), Belitan Nasib (1975), as well as Pembunuh dan Anjing Hitam (1975). Kartamihardja also wrote literary dramas, such as Bentrokan Dalam Asrama (1952), Pak Dullah in Extremis, Puncak Kesepian (1959), Keluarga Raden Sastro, and Pakaian dan Kepalsuan (1957).