A terrifying and evil king, Jarasandha, is terrorizing the world—taking over countries, imprisoning just and popular kings, and ravaging havoc on communities around the world. The heroic Pandhawa family of five brothers craft a plan together with Kresna to put on a very special ceremony of offerings that will help forge peace in the world. Jarasandha, meanwhile, has made his own pact with the evil forces in the underworld, to sacrifice one hundred kings in order to secure his power. He needs three more leaders, as he has already taken control over ninety-seven. As the three leaders Arjuna, Kresna, and Bima face off with Jarasandha in his kingdom of Giribajra, a grand debate begins on the nature of belief, religion, and rituals—Jarasandha insisting he is in the right, and Kresna debating his every point. The story comes to a climax when the Pandhawa actually do go through with their ceremony of offerings, and various challenges to their own peace of mind force them to examine their own beliefs.
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The protagonists of the stories in this translated collection all crave a private domain, a place that nobody else can touch. These characters are feisty, non-conformist, and fiercely independent—traits that do not necessarily serve them well in the constraints of the conservative environments in which they find themselves, be that the environment of their family, their work or their country. To read the stories in this collection is to enter the private domain of the characters. It is also to share with those characters their quest for the most elemental thing in life: meaningful connections with other human beings.
The first four decades of the national art theater in Indonesia (1926-1965) were a period of fascinating experimentation undertaken by elite intellectuals heavily influenced by, and attempting to come to terms with, the forms and styles of Western theater. Volume 2 of The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Drama contains a selection of dramas representative of this exciting and pivotal era in the construction of Indonesia’s modern national art theater.
As the New Order government became increasingly authoritarian, there was a clear shift in playwriting style from allegorical fairytales of wordplay, humor and oblique reference to a more direct engagement, interrogation, and call to arms. All in all, Indonesian drama during the New Order provides a fascinating window into a society caught between the legacy of tradition, the challenge of repression, and a strong desire for democratization.
Plays for the Popular Stage, the first volume of The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Drama, offers windows on interethnic cultural obsessions in Indonesia and signs of participation in global trends. Originating with growth of Indonesia’s urban centers in the late 19th century, popular theater addressed a new social constellation: the mass audience. This volume brings together representative plays from the 1890s until the 1960s, including examples of diverse genres that make up Indonesian popular theater: komedi stambul, opera derma, tonil, sandiwara and lenong.
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The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Poetry presents a wide-ranging selection of twentieth-century poetry, more than 325 poems by more than 180 authors, available for the first time in English translation. In Indonesia poetry enjoys a status far and above all other genres. Popular with the public in a way that’s unimaginable in the West, poetry is accessible through newspapers, magazines, radio, television, films and poetry readings. Major historical issues are articulated and negotiated through poetry, such as decolonization and the emergence of national consciousness, ethnic and gendered identities, and the environmental and social effects of modernization. This anthology offers a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Indonesia as seen through the lens of its poetry. As a complement to the Lontar anthologies of Indonesian drama and short stories, The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Poetry offers the unique opportunity to explore the trajectories of a nation and its people through its poetry, which continues to act as the barometer of Indonesian literary life.
The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Short Stories is the first definitive anthology in English of Indonesian short stories from the twentieth century. These two volumes, featuring a selection of 109 of the most popular and influential works of short fiction, span the entire century, from pre-Independence Indonesia to the year 2000, and include many new translations. The editors drew from a wide cross section of Indonesian short story writers with respect to ethnicity, gender, class, and ideology. Volume 2 presents 61 stories dating from the founding of the New Order government that followed a national bloodbath in 1965 to just after its end in 1998 and the dawn of the second millennia. Along with the rise of “newspaper-length short stories” and a dwindling focus on realism, this period was marked by numerous changes in style and form, especially in the last decade of the century when authors, concerned with the militaristic nature of the central government, began to adopt a much more direct approach.
The Lontar Anthology of Indonesian Short Stories is the first definitive anthology in English of Indonesian short stories from the twentieth century. These two volumes, featuring a selection of 109 of the most popular and influential works of short fiction, span the entire century, from pre-Independence Indonesia to the year 2000, and include many new translations. The editors drew from a wide cross section of Indonesian short story writers with respect to ethnicity, gender, class, and ideology. Volume 1 presents 48 stories dating back to the days of rising nationalism in the first part of the century to just before the downfall of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, and the rise of a militaristic government following the tragic events of 1965. Stories from the 1920s that drew on oral storytelling traditions and were suffused with nationalistic ideology were gradually replaced by fiction written with realism as a guiding principle. At all times, writers were the unofficial spokespeople for the issues affecting their generation.
Violence, money, and melodrama are the volatile ingredients of The Rape of Sukreni. Written in the 1930s, The Rape of Sukreni is a modern Indonesian classic that is concerned with the Balinese-Hindu notion of karma, and the impact of modern commerce on Balinese society. More telling today than when it was first written, The Rape of Sukreni offers a unique, insider’s dark view of the island’s future that violently challenges the conventional image of Bali as a honeyed paradise.
First published in 1927, Kwee Tek Hoay’s The Rose of Cikembang is an excellent example of the peranakan literature of the Netherlands East Indies that flourished between the 1900s and 1942 when the Japanese occupation in Indonesia began. Highly sentimental, the novel is rich in many of the controversial themes that Kwee was famous for: inter-racial love and the lives of its offspring, fate and karma, mysticism and reincarnation. In pre-war Indonesia, Kwee Tek Hoay’s novels were loved by urban readers. The Rose of Tjikembang, his most popular novel, was filmed twice, first in the early 1930s and again in the 1970s.
The Saga of Siti Mariah, a translation of Hikayat Siti Mariah by Haji Mukti, is a window into the workings of Cultuurstelsel, the forced cultivation system imposed by the colonial government in the Dutch East Indies from 1830 until 1870. Embedded in this book’s pages are the lives of the Dutch sugar barons, indigenous elite, European officials, and Chinese middlemen who were enriched under the system, intersected by the lives of Javanese peasants who suffered under its yoke.
Arrested as a leftist-activist in 1966, Putu Oka Sukanta was imprisoned until 1976. In The Starling, he speaks of the terrible degradation of humanity and the inner strength and solidarity of comradeship which emerge in the extreme conditions of imprisonment. The poems go on to explore the painful steps in the reconstruction of life and social meaning after the prison gates have opened.
In the early 1910s, Semaoen was sentenced to prison for sedition by the Dutch colonial government. The Story of Kadirun, a semi-autobiographical novel, reveals with honesty and comprehensive insight the unjust treatment towards the indigenous people from a historical perspective. Kadirun’s tale, with its picture of the life of the Javanese during the colonial era, tells the readers what must be done to make the world a place fit to live in.
A landmark novel, The Weaverbirds is a tale of physical and spiritual struggles. The story spans from the formative days of Indonesia’s independence to Indonesia’s oil crisis in the mid 1970s. Larasati, the precious daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Antana, and Setadewa, the army-brat son of Capt. And Mrs. Brajabasuki, are childhood friends. But when they are older, they find themselves on the opposite sides of the country’s political spectrum. Even with their many differences, their relationship offers guidance to survival in a chaotic world.
In 1953, when Sitor Situmorang published his first collection of poetry, Green Paper Letters (Surat Kertas Hijau), he established himself as a prominent poet. In an essay he wrote some thirty years later, he would state that the poems of this collection expressed a single theme only: “love and wanderlust being two aspects of one and the same experience.”
To Love, To Wander, with poems dating from throughout Sitor’s productive writing career, is a travelogue, describing forty years of ontinuous love and wandering. It would be difficult to characterize his poetic work as a whole, even though the travelogue we could draw on the basis of a careful reading seems to deny every idea of development and change.
The main characteristic of Sitor’s poetry is the simplicity of its wording, the clarity of its syntax. The tales and descriptions bear a deceptive transparency: they suggest a coherence and control that is only confirmed in the regular rhymes and rhythms – but once readers set themselves to a serious interpretation, that transparency fades. The very lucidity leaves many open places that are not filled by making connections with other poems. Sitor’s poetry is a poetry of words, evoking concepts, calling up series of pictures and images that never come full circle.
The first Indonesian novel ever to be published in English, Twilight in Jakarta offers a grim cast of characters: corrupt politicians, impotent intellectuals, reckless journalists, manipulative Lefties, and impetuous Moslems, to name a few. Although the novel condemns political practices that were prevalent in 1950s Indonesia, readers will find that it still resonates today, when once again Indonesia adopts a multi-party system with political parties that compete and collaborate at the same time.