ART + CULTURE

THE SEVEN MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS IN INDONESIA'S LITERARY HISTORY

Indonesia is a country with a rich literary tradition, with authors producing works that have become influential and culturally significant over the years.

10.04.2023
BY SUKSMAJATI KUMARA
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Indonesia is a country with a rich literary tradition, with authors producing works that have become influential and culturally significant over the years. Here are some of the most impactful books in Indonesian history:

"Bumi Manusia" by Pramoedya Ananta Toer: "Bumi Manusia," or "This Earth of Mankind," is the first book in a tetralogy that tells the story of Indonesia's struggle for independence. The novel was banned by the Indonesian government during the New Order era due to its socialist themes, but it remains a cornerstone of Indonesian literature and a powerful commentary on the country's colonial past.

"Max Havelaar" by Multatuli: "Max Havelaar" is a seminal work of Dutch literature that has had a lasting impact on Indonesian history. The novel, published in 1860, is a scathing critique of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia and has been credited with inspiring the Indonesian independence movement.

"Sitti Nurbaya" by Marah Rusli: "Sitti Nurbaya" is a tragic love story that has become a classic of Indonesian literature. The novel, first published in 1922, tells the story of a young Minangkabau woman who is forced into an arranged marriage and ultimately falls victim to the patriarchal norms of her society.

“Belenggu” by Armijn Pane, translated title "Shackles" by Indonesian author Armijn Pane was first published in 1940 under the title "Belenggu" and has since been translated into several languages, including English and German. "Shackles" is considered a classic of Indonesian literature and is known for its psychological depth and nuanced portrayal of complex relationships. It has been adapted into several films and stage productions over the years.

“Beauty is a Wound” by Eka Kurniawan. In the epic novel "Beauty Is a Wound," author Kurniawan weaves together elements of history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humor, and romance to create a sweeping and dynamic polyphony. The story centers around Dewi Ayu, a stunning Indo prostitute, and her four daughters who face a series of harrowing challenges including incest, murder, bestiality, rape, insanity, monstrosity, and encounters with the vengeful undead.

“Robohnya Surau Kami,” by Ali Akbar Navis is a collection of socio-religious short stories, 'The Collapse of Our Mosque,' features a notable work that was first published in 1956. This particular story depicts a dialogue between God and Haji Saleh, an Indonesian citizen who has spent his entire life devoted to worship. Considered a monumental work in Indonesian literature, this short story offers a unique perspective on the intersection of faith and society.

"Laskar Pelangi" by Andrea Hirata: "Laskar Pelangi," or "The Rainbow Troops," is a coming-of-age novel that has become a modern classic of Indonesian literature. The book tells the story of a group of impoverished students who attend a school in a remote village in Belitung and their struggles to overcome the challenges of poverty and education.

These books have had a significant impact on Indonesian history and culture, inspiring generations of readers and shaping the literary landscape of the country. From colonialism and oppression to love and resilience, they explore a wide range of themes and provide insight into the complex and diverse society that is Indonesia.

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