Does even ‘literary traitor’ exist in dictionary or Thesaurus? Hahahaha. I kinda label myself as a literary traitor for I hardly know let alone comprehend about Indonesian literature. Probably I remember a bit, just a very bit, of Indonesian literary figures, such as Chairil Anwar, Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, because our teachers tell us to do so. Wkwkwkwk.
Other than that, almost nothing. Oh! The only modern local writer whom I love most is Ayu Utami thanks to her brilliance in writing ‘Saman’ and ‘Larung.’ Unfortunately, her writing in ‘Bilangan Fu’ fails to attract me despite its hard and wonderful story ideas. Since then, I haven’t read any of her later books, like ‘Manjali and Cakrabirawa’ or ‘Cerita Cinta Enrico.’
And poor me. I haven’t read any of Pram’s books until now. I once read some pages of ‘Bumi Manusia’ yet I was not interested to continue reading it. Guess, I felt that the language of the novel is either difficult or not smooth in my mind that I decided not to resume reading it. My friend sometimes urges me to read Pram’s books but I have yet to do that up to now. No one must convince me that he’s the best writer ever in the country so far. I know that so well. And even so, he has a similar view with my most favorite author, John Steinbeck, with socialism and realism ideas. The question is: how come I don’t even want to touch any of Pram’s novels while I have read six of Steinbeck’s?
The last book from Indonesian author that I read is ‘Muhammad, Sang Penggenggam Hujan’, two years ago. Such a long time not to read a single novel. The book is about Prophet Muhammad and a fictional story about a person who is obsessed to meet him. Such an outstanding novel actually with very personal language that may connect me with the characters in it. But still… I put it down when I reach half of the novel. I stop enjoying, digesting, swimming into the book. I get bored. I end up completing my reading in unenthusiastic mood. There are books – ‘The Shadow Lines’ and ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ — that can draw me back into a reading enjoyment but this novel fails to do so.
Currently, local book lovers talk about Dewi ‘Dee’ Lestari’s Perahu Kertas. My friend says it’s a good book but her comments do not encourage me to read it. I once read her book entitled ‘Filosofi Kopi’ and I loved it. But I don’t know on why I never try to read her Supernova or Perahu Kertas. Something’s wrong is in my mind, I think.
Sometimes, I would love to blame it all on my addiction to read novels in English language. See, I even know more about Indian literature than Indonesia’s. Give me some tests! I can prove that. From all my readings about Indian culture, I can inform you that Indian authors sometimes loathe with Indians’ shameful behaviours, get confused with the Western-Eastern culture mixtures, Indian identity, caste problems, poverty, religions, corruptions… similar to those happening in Indonesia.
Some of my friends think that I am cool to be able to read those thick novels all in English language. In a way, yes, I think of it as that, too. But in another way.. I pity myself for I can’t absorb local author’s ideas, critics in good books. I believe Indonesia has so many potential authors with local taste that I can’t even find in foreign writers who live years in the country. Probably, if Pram were still alive and he write his books in English language, I would end up saying WOW!
But this language barrier gets me stuck on this. I love English language so much that not only I can only speak, or write but also feel it in my soul and my mind. That’s the key to fully enjoy the sensation of good novels. And I can’t feel that while reading in Bahasa Indonesia. Literary works are all about mind adventures with nothing but the help of moving language, something you can only feel but you can’t even describe. I think I’ve lost that in reading novels in Bahasa Indonesia. So sorry for myself. Thus, I don’t want to force myself buying and reading local novels if my mind is not in an on-mode for Bahasa Indonesia. Poor me! Poor me! Poor me! Well, at least, I still glue at reading newspaper about local news in Bahasa Indonesia. And magazine, as well. So, am I a local literary traitor or not? I can say that I still love Bahasa Indonesia, just not keen on reading novels in local language. Other things are fine for me.