Book Review: Saman

All Things Books / Review

About Saman,
Written by Catherine Brist, and was originally published in Indonesiaful,
Feb 19, 2013

A schoolgirl falls in love with her teacher; a priest defends a rural village and loses faith in God; a woman plans an affair with a married man. Such are the plot lines in Ayu Utami’s Saman, a 1998 romance novel that became a cultural sensation in Indonesia following its publication. At first glance, Saman is a simple love story, keeping with many conventions of that genre. However, as it deals with the thorny issues of religion, sexuality, and governmental oppression, Saman demands a second look. Credited with starting a movement of young female authors known as “sastra wangi,” or “fragrant literature,” Saman attacks many topics that are sacred or taboo in Indonesia. As a result, the book became a magnet for both controversy and acclaim, winning the Jakarta Arts Council Novel Competition, the Prince Claus Award, and selling more than 100,000 copies in Indonesia alone.

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