Poetic Reaction to Political Excess: W.S. Rendra, Peacock and People’s Poet

The maxim, the pen is mightier than the sword, could be aptly applied to the works of W.S. Rendra. In the political context of 1960s and 1970s Indonesia, the focus era of this paper, oppression and corruption reigned. Rendra used his words to inform people and as a clarion call to oppose the New Order during this period. His poetry and his dramatic readings of it challenged the New Order and in so doing, he attracted large audiences and the ire of those in power.

This paper describes the man and the political landscape of his country, Indonesia, through the turbulent years of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It contains examination of a number of his poems with a view to identifying his literary style, diverse poetic techniques and vivid messages. The poems examined are Nyanyian Duniawi (A Wordly Song from Blues Untuk Bonnie 1974), Pemandangan Senjakala (Twilight View 1968), Nyanyian Angsa (Swan Song 1971), Bersatulah Pelacur-Pelacur Kota Jakarta (Prostitutes of Jakarta – Unite 1968), Khotbah (Sermon 1968) and Pesan Pencopet Kepada Pacarnya (A Pick-pocket’s Advice To His Mistress 1967). These poems were chosen for their vehement commentaries of the political context of his homeland. His poetry made him a political activist when it was dangerous to be such; however, his ideas had significant resonance and impact.

Revolutionary Stink and the Extension of the Tongue of the People: The Political Languages of Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Sukarno

“If one wanted to bring an Ubermensch to life in a prison, that is, a man free of good and evil, it would of course be futile” Sukarno, 1931

In Pramoedya’s “My Cell Mate,” the narrator’s impression of his cell mate depends on their forced association. The story begins with the immediate circumstances of that association—with the cell—for its measurements emphasize its rigidity and smallness. But at the same time the descriptions suggest that the cell is a mouth; its shape, with a relatively small width and large height, is that of a mouth. What we expect to be a ceiling is termed a palate; the barred opening onto the outside is said to “gape” or “yawn.” This opening (like the smaller one on the opposite side) is called by the strange name “kelangkan” which means “balcony” or “balustrade” rather than window. As such it suggests the forward thrust of the mouth with its rows of teeth.

Beholding a Landmark of Guilt: Pramoedya in the Early 1960s and the Current Regime*

In July 1995 the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation announced the decision to present its annual award to Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Subsequently, in a protest statement delivered to Manila, twenty-six prominent Indonesian intellectuals expressed their opposition to the award decision, suggesting that the Foundation was not fully aware of Pramoedya’s role in “witch-hunting” his fellow writers during “the darkest period for artistic creativity during the ‘guided democracy’ years (1959- 1 9 6 5 ) .Charges of witch-hunting leveled against Pramoedya are nothing new. They have persistently characterized discussions about Pramoedya’s role in modern Indonesian literature since the early years of the New Order regime. Branded as a communist even though he was never a member of the PKI, Pramoedya has faced some of the most severe sanctions meted out by the Suharto government to its political opponents. In an atmosphere shaped by both government intimidation and emotional recollections of bitter past disputes, close study of Pramoedya’s works, particularly those stemming from the period of his most explicitly political writing, has rarely been undertaken in Indonesia. Consequently, the content of much of this work has been obscured, even as it is periodically invoked by the New Order regime to reinforce its characterization of Pramoedya as a political subversive in Indonesian society.

Seno Gumira Ajidarma and Fictional Resistance to an Authoritarian State in 1990s Indonesia

During the 1990s, Seno Gumira Ajidarma has emerged as perhaps the preeminent fiction writer of the Indonesian younger generation. He is certainly one of the most productive. Since 1993 he has published six collections of short stories, a highly experimental novel, and a collection of essays on journalism, literature, and politics. He can also be regarded as one of the more courageous of the younger writers. Many of his works touching on sensitive social and political problems, especially those dealing with East Timor—Saksi Mata (Eye Witness or “Witness of the Eyes”1), and Jazz, Parfum dan Insiden (Jazz, Perfume, and an Incident”2)—were published prior to Suharto’s ouster, in an atmosphere in which banning was still very much a possibility, though social pressure and struggle were gradually forcing the government grudgingly to concede more freedom of expression.3 Saksi Mata and Jazz, Parfum dan Insiden, in particular, have earned Seno considerable respect among his contemporaries, activists, and the current generation of students.

National literature, regional manifestations: Contemporary Indonesian language poetry from West Java

This thesis has been undertaken with a number of objectives in mind. In the first place, it aims to assist in the development of a ‘map’ of aspects of contemporary Indonesian language poetry and associational life related to that poetry from the province of West Java, particularly in the period after 1998, when President Soeharto relinquished power as president of the Republic of Indonesia. While there have been numerous studies undertaken of aspects of the development of modern Indonesian literature, relatively few have focussed on the regional setting of the modern Indonesian literature story. Those that have considered regional developments have tended to focus on literature in the regional languages themselves

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