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.
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.
In the Small Hours of the Night, a collection of 24 Sundanese short stories, is the first collection of its kind ever to be translated into English. The stories deal with a variety of subjects, ranging from everyday-politics where corruption is rife to stories of village life and the trials faced by villagers forced to confront the waves of modernization. There are also stories which deal with the significant historical events of the last seventy years and finally—as one might expect, since the Sundanese are known for the frankness with which they describe sexual attraction—there are also stories of love.
Authors whose work may be found in this collection include Aan Merdéka Permana, Absurditas Malka, Dadan Wahyudin, Déni A. Fajar, Déni A. Héndarsyah, Érwin Wahyudi, Fitria Puji Lestari, Héna Sumarni, Lugiena Dé, Mamat Sasmita, Mulyana Surya Atmaja, Nina Rahayu Nadéa, Usép Romli H.M., and Yus R. Ismail.
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.
In August 1883 massive volcanic eruptions destroyed two-thirds of the island of Krakatau, in the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java. It was the day the world exploded. A tsunami wreaked havoc in the region, causing countless deaths, and shock waves were recorded around the world. Ash from the eruption affected global weather patterns for years.
Since that time Krakatau has been the subject of more than 1,000 reports and publications, both scholarly and literary but the only surviving account of the event written by an indigenous eyewitness—Syair Lampung Karam (The Tale of Lampung Submerged), by Muhammad Saleh—has only now, after 130 years, found its way into English translation.
Thus begins Muhammad Saleh’s account. Written in the form of a syair, a classical Malay rhymed poem, Krakatu: The Tale of Lampung Submerged, sheds light on local responses to the widespread devastation in the region and enriches our knowledge of the Krakatau disaster.
Lies, Loss, and Longing portrays the lives of those who survive violence. Sukanta delves deeply into sufferings, using his keen eye for the mundane to expose extraordinary contradictions. Many of the characters in this short story collection are faced with sad endings; nonetheless, there is strength in his characters that gives them, and us, insights into the predicaments and the changes that must happen in Indonesia. Sukanta’s work transcends location and the longing he evokes in his stories are shared by all of us.
The world has been struck by multiple natural disasters (earthquakes, land slides, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis), causing great suffering for the common people. Various corrupt officials are taking advantage of the situation, and things are getting worse. Arjuna, the princely hero from the Pandhawa family, has vowed to do something to help. His advisor Semar tells him of a gift of inspired leadership the gods are planning to hand down to a worthy mortal—the legendary King Rama’s philosophy of leadership from generations past. As the antagonist family of Kurawa brothers also struggles for possession of the god’s boon the story unfolds, including numerous secondary plots about characters from the Ramayana (Wibisana, Kumbakarna, Dasamuka) who have yet to have peace in eternity, and are still working out their destiny. Finally, Arjuna meets with an ascetic up in the mountains, and receives the philosophy of inspired leadership which will lead to a more peaceful future.
Another books in this package:
Bali has long been one of the most famous travel destinations in the world. With its two million visitors a year, foreign-conceived notions about this island are numberless. But what do the Balinese think of their island and their culture? What do fellow Indonesians think of Bali? Menagerie 4 offers an insider’s view of the Island of the Gods that often contrasts starkly with the popular image manufactured by tourism agencies and travel magazines.
Regardless of their skin color or belief system, women all over the world experience sexual violence. Menagerie 5 features a dozen stories
by twelve authors focusing on various aspects of sexual violence towards women, from human trafficking to prostitution and the plight of female guest workers abroad. This collection includes poems by the missing poet- activist Wiji Thukul, reproductions of protest posters produced by Kelompok Rakyat Biasa, and a photographic essay on the 1999 election campaign.
Following the so-called Communist coup of 1965, hundreds of leftist Indonesians were unable to return home. In Indonesia, numerous intellectuals were arrested and interned. Menagerie 6 includes ten short stories and 17 poems by Indonesian exile authors as well as two short stories by “domestic” exile writers and two biographical stories of former political prisoners. Collectively, the materials in this collection present a small but evocative part of the Indonesian exile experience.
Mirah of Banda is the tragic life story of Mirah. Kidnapped from Java, five-year old Mirah is taken to the Banda Islands. The story then becomes a personal account of her life on a nutmeg plantation during the Dutch colonial era, the Japanese Occupation, and the Indonesian Revolution. Mirah’s account includes her experiences as a contract nutmeg picker and the plantation owner’s concubine. The fate of her daughter, Lili, when she is taken away to be a “comfort woman” to Japanese soldiers, is heartbreaking.
Morphology of Desire gives a generous introduction to the writing by the internationally acclaimed Indonesian poet, Dorothea Rosa Herliany. Through a distinctive mix of striking imagery and boldness of voice, the poet sets out to destroy many of the common assumptions about everyday life and human relationships. As a woman and a poet, she is doubly an outsider. Her blatant departure, in form as well as content, from the accepted conventions of society (which intensifies through the progression of her work) is remarkable, not only in its personal and political ramifications, but also in its emotional and imaginative tenor. This book will speak to readers who are interested in Indonesia, women’s writing, and in poetry in general.
Museum of Pure Desire contains choice examples of poetry whose richness derives from their destruction of the constraints that surround the genre. Dewanto’s poems challenge the reader to stop and reconsider what first comes to mind upon their reading and to consider an entirely different interpretation altogether; they pull the reader into a state of tension between extreme juxtaposition and hidden logic, between childlike playfulness and calculated detachment.
The novel Never the Twain ranks among modern Indonesian fiction’s most popular works. Hanafi, the novel’s protagonist, is madly in love with Corrie du Bussee, a beautiful Eurasian, though he is betrothed to his cousin Rapiah. The romantic conflict serves as an allegory for pre-independent Indonesia when, as it struggled to have a national identity, the nation had to choose between adhering to traditional values or adopting Western notions of progress and humanity.