Black Clouds over the Isle of Gods and Other Modern Indonesian Short Stories

Black Clouds over the Isle of Gods and Other Modern Indonesian Short Stories

Black Clouds over the Isle of Gods and Other Modern Indonesian Short Stories

Black Clouds over the Isle of Gods and Other Modern Indonesian Short Stories

Synopsis

Here is an open door into one of the most complex societies in the world today. These colorful stories, each uniquely different in style and subject matter, take issue with worn stereotypes and reflect both everyday life and the great upheavals that have marked modern Indonesian national life: the end of Dutch and then Japanese colonial rule, the bloody collapse of Sukarno's Old Order, subsequent consolidation of a regime commited to development, and coming soon a major and unpredictable leadership transition as Soeharto's thirty-year rule winds down. With a population approaching 200 million speaking 583 languages spread across 13,600 islands on 3 million square miles of ocean and with one of the world's largest economies, growing fast in the midst of persistent poverty, Indonesia demands our attention and understanding. Yet information about it is woefully scarce.

Anyone interested in Indonesia and its literature will find "Nusantara" (Homeland), expertly translated and introduced, an excellent place to,begin.

Excerpt

This little book is neither a survey nor a scholarly study. It serves a different and altogether more modest purpose: to offer the general reader and the Indonesia enthusiast a range of stories from a vast, complex, and intoxicatingly interesting country. It goes without saying that the subjects, character, and merit of the selections vary. But in its own way each communicates something of Indonesia's distinctive and manifold life; and each, in its own way, is entertaining.

Generally speaking, the short story is the least forgiving of forms. Ideally it should echo, should expand across its economy; in short, it should be enormous. Novels, Henry James's "loose, baggy monsters," are easily forgotten. Stories, irrespective of their provenance, stay in the mind; a really good story creates its own self and subject, in a way peculiar to itself. In Indonesia particularly, the short story enjoys the further advantage of being by far the favored prose form. It is not difficult to understand why this should be so. A novel-consuming public lives in cities and has leisure time to fill, cash to spare, a modicum of privacy— and electric light to read by. Impoverished, for the most part; deprived of educational opportunities until very late in the Dutch colonial period; living in dense agglomerations in rural surroundings, the majority of people in what used to be known as the Netherlands East Indies were illiterate. Those who weren't were disinclined to buy bound volumes, and still less to read them for pleasure; in any case, apart from the fact that their traditional culture was largely visual and oral, they hadn't the means. Relative to absolute numbers, the reading and book-buying public in the colonial Indies was minuscule. Publishing on an industrial scale and in the sense taken for granted in Atlantic societies was in its infancy and catered to the needs of small European and Eurasian minorities.

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