Monday, July 04, 2016

Literary Update

So the reason I haven't been writing more is because I've been getting resettled and it has been the occasion for much time spent and stress...stressed.  But I wanted to make note of the following: when I read The Buru Quartet, by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, I made the following statement, VERBATIM:

according to [Max] Lane [the translator] (in this article), "there has been no public announcement that his writings are no longer banned--they may very well be still formally banned. His works are not introduced, or even mentioned, in high school curricula for Indonesian language or literature in state schools."

WELL.  Here's a piece of information to shed light on that: I was in an English-language bookstore here in Jakarta, and in the Asian section, what did I find but a WHOLE BUNCH of copies of all four volumes of the series.  So...that probably answers that.  And not only that, but they had Jazz, Perfume, and the Incident, about the Indonesian government's brutality in East Timor.  So...maybe one's assumptions about what is and is not the case are wildly inaccurate.

However, one must allow that we are talking about English translations here, and as such, they're only available to foreigners and Indonesia's elite.  It's possible that the translations are the only ones available--although it seems more likely to me to be the case that--unfortunately--most people here don't care enough about literature to keep books like this in print in their original language.  This could serve the government's needs just as well.  I am given to understand that there is no literature taught in Indonesian primary and secondary schools, which is deeply unfortunate if true.  I think my earlier assumption--based on what (white) people had told me--that there's not much quality Indonesian literature may well have been based on unconscious racism; either that, or just the fact that, due to the culture, it goes out of print so quickly.  At any rate, at that same bookstore, there were a WHOLE BUNCH of translations published in a series I'd never heard of called the Modern Library of Indonesia.  It's a fascinating vista that has previously been unknown to me, and I'm really keen to dig into this stuff when I get the chance.


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