The poetically-crafted stories found in this collection by Triyanto Triwikromo –the first by this writer in English translation, are leavened by sardonic wit, a touch of the absurd, and the bizarre in a world gone mad. A Conspiracy of God-Killers is not itself the title of any of the short stories in this collection but derives from a suggestion by Triyanto himself. And small wonder! The title embodies the dominant theme of these stories: that organized violence and persecution of the vulnerable amounts to a conspiracy against God.
Cok Sawitri’s stories shed light on the lives of modern Balinese people and the various challenges they face. Readers are invited to examine the Balinese psyche, mainly their essential need for balance between traditional customs and modern-day life. But external conflicts aren’t Sawitri’s only forte; she also looks into people’s hearts.
Set in Jakarta during the Indonesian revolution, A Road With No End asks the question, “What must we do to free ourselves from fear?” The novel’s two principal characters, Isa and Hazil, are put to the test by the times. Isa is timid and submissive by temperament; Hazil, on the other hand, appears to harbor no doubts and does not know physical fear. But by the end of the novel, when the two are in the hands of Dutch Security, their personalities and how they react to incarceration produce markedly different responses.
History fascinates in the hands of M. Iksaka Banu. The stories in this collection feature well-crafted characters acting at key moments in Indonesia’s colonial past. Indonesia’s history has frequently been told through Western eyes. Now, M. Iksaka Banu reclaims the past and makes it come alive for today’s readers.
A Student Named Hijo has been recognized for depicting a new Indonesian youth culture that has adopted Western cultural and lingual facets. By contrasting traditional Javanese and Dutch cultural values, the author advocated a view that the two are incompatible. This includes love, described in the novel as something only those with a Dutch education would attempt to find. Rejected for publication by Balai Pustaka, the Dutch controlled publishing house, the work is now considered a classic.
What distinguished Mona Sylviana’s writing, is her willingness to look at the dark side of life and to confront societal issues head on. In Mona’s stories, the world is not a safe place for women. Yet her characters do not respond to situations as passive objects or victims; they challenge the accepted order.
Clara Ng’s stories seem calm on the surface but they are liberally sprinkled with black humor and often contain unexpected elements of surprise. Her protagonists are usually women but rarely do they hold the same occupation. Ng’s stories are boundless; they serve as role models for women employed in a range of fields.
The final days of World War II serve as the backdrop for this novel by Ismail Marahimin. Set in a small Sumatran village, And the War is Over is a tensely drawn story of the villagers, Japanese soldiers, Dutch prisoners, and Javanese workers who become, briefly but significantly, a part of each other’s lives. When a number of Dutch prisoners conceive an escape plan, tensions arise to a point where human relationships take center stage in this widely acclaimed novel.
The first ever novel by a Papuan author, this story of generosity, greed, and resilience follows the friendship of several underwater and amphibious creatures. In this ecological parable, John Waromi shows the effects of “harvesting the storm” and reaping the results of actions beyond our control. He sheds light on not only the ecology of the southern Papuan coast but also the lives of its people and their culture.
In this coming-of-age novel four Indonesian high-school students seek to discover what their future will bring and find answers to their questions about sexuality. With characters ranging from cross-dressing hairdressers, drag queens, and rent boys to fanatic Muslims and low-life security personnel, the action of this tragicomedy moves between an Islamic boarding school and a gay bar in Jakarta, and in so doing illuminates the mindset and yearnings of a new generation of Indonesians.
English version: Not A Virgin
A coming-of-age story, a tapestry of erotic and tragic liaisons, a dreamscape of nightmares and wonders. But Ceremony is, above all, a tribute to the ceremony-rich life of the Benuaq Dayak, one of the many “upriver people” of Kalimantan. This post-modern (and first) novel by Korrie Layun Rampan took Indonesian literary scene by storm when it won the Jakarta Arts Council’s novel writing competition award in 1977. After winning the award, Korrie continued to establish himself as one of Indonesia’s major literary figures, but four decades later, Ceremony still has the power to thrill, awe, and mystify readers. This edition is graced by an informative introduction by noted French scholar, Bernard Sellato, on the rituals of the Benuaq Dayak people. It also contains a critique of the original edition by Indonesian poet and translator Dodong Djiwapradja.
Budi Darma’s stories are absurdist and surreal. Often in conversation form, they draw content from mythology, legends, and fables. There is an omnipresent mood of darkness that pervades much of his writing; a kind of bleak perspective that lies behind a thin cloak of normality and peace. In the modernist manner, Darma is interested in style, structure, themes, and plot. Yet at the same time, he disavows himself of the role of creator and regards his short stories as being the result of something external.
As a flight attendant for the new Indonesian Airlines, Elisa is determined to establish her independence and find a place where she really belongs. With a troubled family background and almost no knowledge of her ancestors, Elisa is searching for her true identity. The search for her true father proves to be heartbreaking and Elisa grows to hope that her marriage to a handsome Javanese man she fell deeply in love with will give her a sense of belonging ad stability. In this novel, Elisa learns what it means to be a young woman finding her way in the troubled early years of Indonesia’s independence.
Di Balik Kaca brings together, in Indonesian, the same twenty stories published in Menagerie 7. Not only do the stories herein disprove the persistent but baseless myth that all forms of sexuality and sexual behavior that fall outside the norm of accepted heterosexual behavior are not, somehow, “Indonesian,” they also show that the Indonesian archipelago is as multi-sexual as it is multi-ethnic.
Drought is a celebration of life and human commitment. The hero decides to move to one of Indonesia’s outer islands, in a government-run program called “transmigration”, to start a new life as a farmer. His near-failed effort takes him to meet various inspired madmen—bureaucrats, bandits, psychiatrists, religious teachers, and a beautiful woman known only as the V.I.P. The combination of these characters will make us question what is considered “normal” in a conventional society. The book is a lyrical testimony of the strength and unpredictability of human character.
Earth Dance tells the story of four generations of Balinese women with conflicts arising from the demands of the caste system and personal desires. Our narrator, Ida Ayu Telaga, reveals how Balinese women wish to be beautiful and ultimately, find a husband from a higher caste group. When the stubborn Telaga defies her mother’s wishes and marries a commoner, her surroundings think this is a downward move. Behind their thick glossy hair and golden complexions, lies a web of jealousy and intrigue that bewilders Telaga: Is this what it means to be a woman? Earth Dance has been translated into German and published under the title Erdentanz.