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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.