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.
The subject of Toeti Heraty’s poetry ranges from human encounters in an age of conceit to the confessions of an ever-restless soul. Many of Toeti’s poems give voice to the emotional struggles and disappointments of women. They show a clear feminist influence; yet their method of confronting the patriarchy is not always direct. Instead, Toeti quietly questions the complicity of a world that represses woman.
24 hours with Gaspar, a detective story is a satirical, unconventional and comic-like take on the generic, standard crime novel. Sabda plays with the reader as the story fluctuates from easy-to-follow narratives to the story’s trajectory and structure suddenly being corrupted through incessant repetitions of a line.
These excerpts from Arrived before Departing are melancholy to read. Centralized around a family’s dynamics, this story questions the taboo and issues about sexuality, religious stereotypes, collective ideologies within a community and navigating traditional spiritualism within a modernized world.
Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie’s All the Fish in the Sky is a whimsical and surreal work that revolves around the relationships between characters of personified animals, inanimate objects and a nomadic boy-god figure suspended in a purgatory-like space. Ziggy writes innocent and curious descriptions that simultaneously evoke these underlying societal issues about sexuality, religion and the environment.
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).