Indonesia Literature Part II

The committee then took the name of Balai Pustaka and so was called the first period of modern literature, which began in the 1920s and was characterized by a strong minangkabau influence, most of the authors coming from that region of Sumatra. The production consisted mainly of novels, which describe the contrast between old and new generation (the latter suffocated by tradition, in particular by marriage imposed by families). Notable they are Siti Nurbaya (1922) by Marah Rusli (1889-1968), one of the favorite novels of generations of Indonesians, and Salah Asuhan (1928; Wrong Education) by Abdul Muis (1890-1959). The distinguished patriot and politician Muhammad Yamin (1903-1962) stands out among the poets. This is followed by the period of Pudjangga Baru (The modern man of letters), the title of the magazine founded in 1933 (it ceased publication in 1942, at the beginning of the Japanese occupation). Prominent figures in this period are Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana (1908-1994) and the brothers of origin Batacca Sanusi (1905-1968) and Armijn Pane (1908-1970), the latter distinguished narrator of modern education, author of the first Indonesian novel of a psychological nature, Belenggu (1940; Chains); Sanusi, on the other hand, inspired above all by the classical tradition, was a refined lyric poet. However, the great poet of this period, one of the greatest in all Indonesian literature, was Amir Hamzah (1911-1946), a Sumatrian noble, whose lyrics collected in Nyanyi Sunyi (1941; The songs of solitude) are inspired by a profound mysticism. The “generation of 1945”, the result of the experiences and sufferings of the Second World War, the Japanese occupation and the struggle for the independence. The main exponents of this generation are Chairil Anwar (1922-1949), expressionist poet, judged as the greatest of all Indonesian literature, and the prose writer Idrus (1921-1979). In the same period appears one of the most notable Indonesian novels, Atheis (1949; The Atheist), by a Sudanese writer, Achdiat Karta Mihardja (b. 1911). In independent Indonesia, literary production is becoming ever wider and more varied and no longer remains the exclusive prerogative of the Sumatranians. The Islamic scholar Hamka (1908-1982) is one of the few narrators of distinctly religious inspiration in a generally secular and Westernist environment in models and spirit. Among the many authors we should mention the journalist and essayist Mochtar Lubis (b.1922-2004), author of beautiful short stories and some equally remarkable novels, such as Jalan Tak Ada Ujung (1952; The endless road), set in the immediate postwar period, when the Dutch were trying to restore their colonial rule; like Senja of Jakarta (1963; Twilight in Jakarta), a dark and realistic picture of the corruption and moral decay of the capital after the war; Harimau! Harimau! (1975; La tigre! La tigre!), Set in the Sumatran forest, interesting for psychological analysis; finally, the best of all, Maut dan Cinta (1977; Death and love), dedicated to the struggle for independence against the Dutch. It should also be mentioned the writer batacco Smatupang Iwan (1928-1970) for introducing a new way to tell: that of the Nouveau Roman of Robbe-Grillet and Sarraute. His novel Merahnya Merah (1969; Red is Red) is particularly notable.

The Javanese Pramoedya Ananta Toer (b. 1925-2006), with a series of historical novels, first welcomed with great favor, then banned due to the author’s long Communist militancy, has established himself as a top-level narrator. Finally Pengakuan Pariyem – Dunia Batin Seorang Wanita Jawa (1981; The confessions of Pariyem – The spiritual world of a Java woman) by Linus Suryadi (b. 1951-1999), is a singular, highly original work, in rhythmic prose, which recalls the great Javanese poems of the century. XVIII and XIX, true compendia of traditional knowledge. The presence of women in modern Indonesian fiction is due to a number of acclaimed writers, among which Nh stands out. Dini (b.1936), delicate and sensitive, with Pada Sebuah Kapal (1973; On a ship), Namaku Hiroko (1977; My name is Hiroko) and various other novels. In the poem WS Rendra (b.1935), of Catholic education, then converted to Islam, the Protestant Sitor Situmorang (b.1924) and Ajip Rosidi stand out (b.1938), also a brilliant essayist and storyteller. Ayu Utami (b. 1968) is part of the last generation of Indonesian writers and in her novels the theme of the transition to democracy is still very much present, in addition to different social issues and instances. He wrote Saman (1998), Larung (2001) and Parasit Lajang: Seks, Sketsa, Cerita (The Single Parasit: Sex, Sketches, Stories, 2003). Goenawan Mohamad (b. 1946) poet, writer and publisher, founded Tempo Magazines, the most popular weekly in Indonesia, closed by the authorities, but then returned to publications. In his essays and articles he has always harshly criticized the conduct of governments, from Sukarno to Suharto. Leila S. Chudori, another “uncomfortable” writer, has instead published several collections of short stories in which the female condition is stigmatized in no uncertain terms. Putu Wijaya (b. 1944) is one of the most famous contemporary writers in Indonesia, a country located in Asia according to Localcollegeexplorer; his production is very prolific, consisting of novels, plays, screenplays. Also worthy of mention is Djenar Maesa Ayu (b. 1973), whose sexually explicit writing often becomes a metaphor for open criticism: to widespread hypocrisy, sexual repression, abuse of women and minors, society in a broad sense.

Indonesia Literature

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