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Rivai Apin and the Modernist Aesthetic in Indonesian Poetry

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By Keith Foulcher

In this article: Rivai Apin
Published in BRILL,
Jan 01, 2001

On the cover of a 1980 publication that tells the story of modern Indonesian literature, there is a portrait of the poet Rivai Apin, painted by his brother Mochtar in 1944 (see Chambert-Loir 1980). It shows Rivai as a youth of seventeen, dressed in the heavy calico drill shirt of the war years, standing before a well-stocked bookcase, with his eyes fixed on the pages of an open book he is holding. In his foreword to the publication, Henri Chambert-Loir comments that the image draws attention to one of the most striking aspects of modern Indonesian literature: it is a literature of extreme youth, which nonetheless has situated itself in its own right alongside the works of world literature. More specifically, we might add that the image evokes the three key elements of the brief modernist turn in modern Indonesian literature: modernism in Indonesia was the product of youth, of war and revolution, and of an unselfconscious appropriation of aspects of European literary modernism of the interwar years. It was a moment of great promise, the point at which the filtering of the outside world through the prism of colonial authority and censorship gave way to a confident assumption of the status of world citizen on the part of Indonesian artists and intellectuals. It was fired by the exhilaration of the new, and the inner realization of a full and complete humanity.


FOULCHER, KEITH. “Rivai Apin and the Modernist Aesthetic in Indonesian Poetry.” Bijdragen Tot De Taal-, Land- En Volkenkunde 157, no. 4 (2001): 771-97. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27865778.

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