A Young Novelist Challenges Indonesia’s Taboos

What Media Says

About Ayu Utami,
Written by Jonathan Napack, and was originally published in The New York Times,
May 27, 2000

For Indonesia, 1998 was a time of two revolutions, political and cultural. Suharto's downfall and the subsequent election of President Abdurrahman Wahid received worldwide attention, but no one outside noticed the appearance of "Saman," a novella by an unknown 27-year-old named Ayu Utami. The book quickly became a phenomenon, reigniting the kind of public debate that had atrophied under Suharto's regime. It touched on virtually all of Indonesia's taboos: extra-marital sex, political repression, the relationship between Christians and Muslims, hatred of the Chinese.

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