Book Stories


Leader of the flak

Mar 05, 2006 / Saman: A Novel
NEARLY EIGHT YEARS since Saman was published in Indonesia, taking the book world there by storm, Ayu Utami has seen immense changes in her life. Once an unknown journalist, her debut novel has sold more than 150,000 copies and been reprinted 34 times in its original language. Saman is now a cause celebre - and its outspoken 37-year-old author is sought after by an Indonesian media hungry for her frank commentary.

All That Is Gone by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, trans Willem Samuels

Dec 31, 2004 / All That Is Gone
The first volume of the Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer's epic quartet of novels set in the Dutch East Indies in the early 20th century, This Earth of Mankind, appeared in an English translation in 1982. It was followed two years later by Child of All Nations. The narrator, Minke, an aspiring writer and budding nationalist, tells of love, work and disappointment in the contrasting milieux of Javanese tradition and Dutch colonial hegemony, with a warmth and intimacy that seem to derive from personal experience.

A Practice Wife’s Story

Aug 11, 2002 / The Girl from the Coast
One of the most moving sections of the Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer's excellent memoir, ''The Mute's Soliloquy,'' contains instructional letters to his children. In ''Music, Sports, Self-Defense and a Story,'' he tells his daughter Yana about a Siberian woman who once gave him a package for an Indonesian man she'd met -- not knowing, Pramoedya assumed, that ''Indonesia was a country of almost 14,000 islands.'' Years later he meets the man on one of the most desolate islands in that archipelago, at the penal colony where Pramoedya was held for more than 11 years under Indonesia's military ''new order'' regime. His written advice to his children (to another daughter: ''You don't have a boyfriend, do you? You're too young for that'') is made especially moving by the fact that the prisoners on Buru Island were only occasionally permitted to write letters, and never to send them.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Translation by Willem Samuels), ‘The Mute’s Soliloquy’

Dec 01, 2001 / The Mute’s Soliloquy: A Memoir
On the night of 13 October 1965, the Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer was working at home; his family had already moved, for their own safety, to his mother-in-law's house. Around 10.30 pm, a crowd gathered outside and began to throw stones at the house. Police officers and soldiers arrived, telling Pram that they had come to “take him to safety”. Instead, he was taken to the Army Reserve Strategic Command Post.

Saman, a sensation!

Jan 01, 1999 / Saman Saman: A Novel
Saman is said to be merely the first part of Ayu Utami’s forthcoming novel, tentatively titled Laila tak mampir di New York (‘Laila didn’t call in New York’). Nevertheless, it is thoroughly worth considering in ...

Phew! Europeesche beschaving! Marco Kartodikromo’s Student Hidjo

Jun 01, 1996 / Student Hidjo
On the last page of Student Hidjo (Student Green, 1919) everything is in apparent stability and peace. Tata tentrem, its author, Marco Kartodikromo, would have called it in his journalistic work: Two years have passed. Green is married to Dame Violet, and he is living happily as the district-attorney in Djarak. Wardojo is the Regent in Djarak, replacing his daddy, and he too is living in peace in the regency, with Dame Blue. Walter returned from his leave and is the assistant-resident in Djarak and he has a wife, Betje ; and schoolteacher Miss Jet Roos is married to Administrator Boeren, the close friend of Willem Walter and they have their homes in Djarak. [Doea tahoen jang telah laloe. Hidjo telah kawin dengan R. A. Woengoe, dan hidoep senang mendjadi Djaksa di Djarak. Wardojo soedah djadi Regent di Djarak, mengganti Papanja, poen dia hidoep roekoen didalam kabopaten dengan R. A. Biroe. Walter soedah kernbali dari verlof mendjadi Assistent Resident di Djarak dan telah mempoenja istri, jaitoe : Betje, dan Onderwijzeres nonah Jet Roos telah berkawin dengan Administrateur Boeren sobat karibnja Willem Walter dan sarna bertempat tinggal di Djarak] Evidently, happiness and peace are reserved for the Javanese protagonists only. The Dutch are described as merely having their homes in Djarak; we could wonder how peaceful and happy these homes will be beyond the novel's last page, and for how long the stability and peace which these last words of Student Hidjo evoke will be retained. After all, tensions were brewing in the land of Java in the second decade of the 20th century, the years Student Hidjo was written and the tale's finale is cast.

“Sitti Nurbaja”: Some reconsiderations

Jan 01, 1971 / Sitti Nurbaya: Kasih Tak Sampai
Marah Rusli's novel Sitti Nurbaja was published first by Balai Pustaka in. 1922. It was by far the most popular of Indonesian novels prior to the second world war and still retained a great deal of popularity after it. This is common knowledge. That it is also a novel which has, as yet, not had its fair critica! due, is rather less obvious. Most critics refer to it, after all, at one stage or another in their studies, even if, upon closer examination, rather briefly. (Drs H. B. Jassin refers to the novel nine times in his four volumes of Kruik dan Esei; none of the references are longer than one sentence.) Further, there seems to be a remarkably high degree of concensus as to the position, the themes, and the significance of the book within the structure of modern Indonesian literature.
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