On November 1991, Indonesian soldiers opened fire on protestors in Dili, capital of East Timor, killing an estimated 250 people. For publishing a report on this massacre, Seno Gumira Ajidarma, an editor of Jakarta-Jakarta magazine at the time, was dismissed from his position. He sought another way to tell the truth about what was happening in East Timor –this time through “fiction.” The stories in Eyewitness both unsettle the mind and pull the heartstrings. With their strange, unnerving style, the stories also represent one brave author’s refusal to forget. “When journalism is gagged,” the author once said, ”literature must speak.”
The stories in Family Room together make up a sojourn through time and space, with the reader traveling from Indonesia to Finland. The further away the protagonists roam, the stronger is the unspoken yearning for unraveling the traumas rooted at the center of their family homes. One especially strategic room is the kitchen, where women speak of dreams, fears, and intrigues. Another is the bedroom, where life and death play out. It is in these domestic, feminized spaces that family as well as political affairs are played out.
The characters in Linda Christanty’s stories are placed in situations that force them to battle their inner demons. The achievement of personal insight, however, does not necessarily mean that her characters achieve redemption or resolution to their problems. Christanty explores the dark side of lives fraught with bitterness and gloom.
Fireflies in Manhattan is a collection of stories that represents three major stages in Umar Kayam’s literary career: stories about New York; stories about the 1965 Communist coup that remain unmatched for their sympathy towards innocent victims; and a series of poignant stories about Lebaran, the time of the Moslem year where those who have been away from home are feeling homesick. Umar Kayam’s stories vary greatly in subject and tone, but in all of them we can always hear the voice of the common man. Author of a large number of books brimming with different styles and genres, Umar Kayam gained a highly-deserved reputation as the voice of the common man. His books include short story anthologies, essays, novels, and children’s stories. His short story, A Thousand Fireflies, won the Horison Literary Prize in 1967 and he was named the recipient of the 1987 S.E.A. Write Award.
This book contains musical notations for all the Javanese gamelan music (as well as sulukan and vocal chorus texts and melodies) presented in the six wayang kulit performances that are documented in Lontar’s “Wayang Education Package.” Two lakon or dramas, Makutharama (Rama’s Crown) and Sesaji Raja Suya (The Grand Offering of the Kings), were each performed in the three most popular performance styles: classical, contemporary- interpretive, and condensed. All gamelan accompaniments for these performances were arranged by Purbo Asmoro.
Abidah’s work gives a voice to women. Women who are victims of polygamy, women who suffer domestic violence. She also gives a voice to an array of marginalized characters within the confines of Indonesian society. A characteristic feature of her work is a strong Islamic background. Her stories are often set in Islamic boarding school (pesantren).
Yusi Avianto Pareanom’s fictional characters are inseparable from their environment and cultural norms. The plots of these stories are no less idiosyncratic than their themes. With their focus on the urban environment, the lifestyles of the middle-class, and popular culture, the stories in this selection will appeal to readers of both serious and popular literature.
Ben Sohib’s stories, often set in Jakarta and with their panoramic backdrop of urban Muslim life, contain fierce criticism against religious radicalism and serve to admonish people who lightly use religious arguments to justify their actions. The author delivers his criticism in a light-hearted manner, making his stories the stuff of dark humor.
Home is a remarkable fictional account of the September 30th Movement’s impact on people’s lives. This “movement” led to the murder of a million or more presumed “Communists” and the imprisonment of another tens of thousands of people. At the time, thousands of Indonesians who were abroad had their passports revoked and were exiled. History was manipulated by the Suharto government to cast a favorable light on their involvement in this tragedy. A whole generation of Indonesians were raised in a world of forced silence, where facts were suppressed and left unspoken. Although the tumultuous events of 1965 envelop Home’s background, this is not a novel about ideology. Going back and forth between Jakarta and Paris in 1965 and 1998, Home is about the lives of Indonesians in exile, their families and their friends, including those left behind in Indonesia. It is not only a story of love, lust and betrayal, but also of laughter, adventure and food.
Siti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli is a classic novel that remains poignant even today. When it was first published, the novel made great impact on the region which was then known as the Dutch East Indies. But the novel stays relevant; the injustice experienced by key female characters in the novel is still a controversial topic in today’s Indonesia. Rich in descriptions, dense with foreboding, and filled with the inexorable workings of fate, Siti Nurbaya is much more than Samsu and Siti Nurbaya’s ill-fated love story. Siti Nurbaya documents the conflict between the dreams of a younger generation and stifling traditions. First published in 1928, Siti Nurbaya is still in print today and has been translated into several languages. HB Jassin, the prominent Indonesian literary critic, named Marah Rusli the first Indonesian modern novelist.
These neatly-constructed post-modern tales demonstrate the author’s skill at deception. Even in stories that contain portraits of reality, readers are compelled to question whether such “reality” is, indeed, real. These are stories that take jibes at both realist literature (with its emphasis on the social qualities of humankind) and absurd literature (which emphasizes humankind’s isolation).
Indonesian author Seno Gumira Ajidarma once wrote, “While journalism speaks with facts, literature speaks with the truth.” The truths found in the fourteen stories in this collection derive from the lives of women in contemporary Indonesia and the ways they manage to carve new spaces for themselves in difficult circumstances. While their victories are not always grand, these women roar as they proclaim their tales.
If Fortune Does Not Favor offers a unique perspective on the complex situation of Indonesian women during the pre- independence period of Indonesian history. First published in 1933, this novel is considered the first Indonesian novel written by a woman. Selasih, the author, was a fighter working to liberate the homeland during the era when this novel was written. Both to Selasih and within If Fortune Does Not Favor, liberation constituted freedom from everything that shackled happiness.
Indonesia is a seductive place. Its people are among the most hospitable on the planet; it is rich beyond telling in languages, cultures and landscapes and it heaves with gold, nickel, spices, fish stocks. Indonesia is also a well-spring of patronage, corruption and bureaucratic incompetence; its schools are a shambles, its legal system a disgrace. Elizabeth Pisani—journalist turned scientist turned analyst-of-all-trades—describes Indonesia as a giant Bad Boyfriend, charming and maddening in equal parts. She has been in thrall to the country since first working in Indonesia over two decades ago, and keeps coming back for more.
In 1945, Indonesian nationalists Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta proclaimed: “We, the people of Indonesia, hereby declare the independence of Indonesia. Matters relating to the transfer of power etc. will be executed carefully and as soon as possible.” Nearly seven decades later, Pisani set out to rediscover Indonesia in the age of its latest “Etc”: decentralisation. She spent over a year travelling 21,000 kilometres by motorbike, bus and boat, and covering another 20,000 kilometres by plane. She stayed with fishermen and farmers, bus drivers and nurses, teachers and nomads. Out of a palette that includes a sound knowledge of history, years of close observation and a healthy sense of the absurd, she paints a clear-eyed but ultimately affectionate portrait of the nation.
Indonesia Etc. is also available as an E-Book and in enhanced E-book format. The enhanced version contains numerous photographs, and multiple slideshows and video recordings of priests chanting by moonlight, letters to Elizabeth from Generals and rebels and lots of other fun stuff. (Note: It will work best on an iPad.)
E-Book is available here
The Javanese Gentry depicts the implicit concerns of many characters who can only dream of achieving the status of a gentry. When Sastrodarsono returns to his village as a school teacher, by virtue of the job, he becomes a gentry. The book follows Sastrodarsono’s family across different periods of Indonesian history: the late colonial period, the Japanese occupation, the war for independence, and two decades of social disorder that ends in the mid 1960s with the rise of Suharto’s New Order government. Author of a large number of books brimming with different styles and genres, Umar Kayam gained a highly-deserved reputation as the voice of the common man. His books include short story anthologies, essays, novels, and children’s stories. His short story, A Thousand Fireflies, won the Horison Literary Prize in 1967 and he was named the recipient of the 1987 S.E.A. Write Award.
On November 12, 1991, the Indonesian military opened fire on protestors in Dili, East Timor. Hundreds were killed and accounts of this massacre sparked international outrage. In Jakarta, a cover-up began immediately and the Indonesian mass media was cautioned to tow the official line. Seno Gumira Ajidarma refused to do so and transformed documentary evidence into semi-fictional form and published it as novel. This novel is a triptych, the first two of which—“Jazz” and “Perfume”—should be easily recognizable to most readers but “the Incident” is a collage of documents on an event in Indonesian history euphemistically referred to by the same name.