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Bastian dan Jamur Ajaib

Book Review / Review

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Bastian dan Jamur Ajaib

Written by Ratih Dwi Astuti, originally published in Personal Blog

Aug 07, 2015

Despite having heard her name in Indonesian literary world for quite long, I never read any of Ratih Kumala’s works until just recently. Bastian dan Jamur Ajaib is not her first book, but it was the first ever that dropped into my lap. Freshly published in 2015, it is a collection of thirteen short stories with truly brilliant ideas, although the writing of some of them mostly does not support the shiny premises. Here are a few which I deem to have left the strongest impression in my mind. Well, it needed a willingness to move through two somewhat badly written stories before I finally came to a number which has both a unique premise and an acceptable way of storytelling. Nenek Hijau, the third story on the list, presents to the reader a notion of virginity apposite to what society believes in general. While people hold a firm belief that women have to keep themselves virgin until the day they’re married, in Nenek Hijau Kumala tries to play with that notion and reverse the whole discourse. As the story unfolds, readers will get to see boys who have to struggle to keep their virginity so that girls will come and ask their parents for their hands in marriage. Yet it is so impossible for them to keep virgin, because once they come of age, Nenek Hijau will come to them, unexpectedly and uninvitedly, and rip them off their virginity. The result of this is way beyond our imagination. The number entitled Tulah is so stunning, not for its storyline but for Kumala’s bravery, or rather audacity, to retell the story of Moses with a plot of her own. The story is told from two changing points of view: Moses and the Red Sea. Kumala uses quite lyrical sentences to elaborate the narrative, which match the tone she has set and thus render a somewhat epic tale.

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