Title page of Malay Manuscript from Syair surat kirim kepada perempuan, MSS Malay B.3, ff. 36v-27r

The Evolution of the Malay Title Page – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

First page of Hikayat Parang Puting. British Library, MSS Malay D.3, f. 1r

First page of Hikayat Parang Puting. British Library, MSS Malay D.3, f. 1r


Source: The evolution of the Malay title page

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Ahok

A Poem on Mother

By W.S. Rendra

To recall mother
Is to recall dessert
Wife is the sustaining main
Girlfriend the side dishes
And mother,
The perfect final,
The great communal feast of life.

Her countenance is the sky at sunset:
The grandeur of the day which has completed its work.
Her voice the echo
Of the whisper of my conscience.

Remembering mother
I see the best promise of life.
Hearing her voice,
I believe in the good in the human heart.
Looking at mother’s photograph,
I inherit the essence of the creation of the world.

Talking with you, my brothers and sisters,
I remember that you too have mothers.
I shake your hands,
I embrace you in fraternity.
We do not want to offend each other,
So we don’t insult each other’s mother,
Who always, like the earth, water and sky,
Defends us without affectation.

Thieves have mothers. Murderers have mothers.
As do corruptors, tyrants, fascists, journalists on the take, and members of parliament for sale,
They too also have mothers.

What sort of mother are their mothers?
Aren’t their mothers the dove soaring in the sky of the soul?
Aren’t their mothers the gateway to the universe?

Will the child say to his mother:
“Mother, I’ve become the errand boy of foreign capital,
That makes goods which do nothing to reduce the poverty of the people,
Then I bought a government mountain real cheap,
While the number of landless villagers skyrockets.
Now I’m rich.
And then, mother, I also bought you a mountain,
For your grave one day.”

No. This is not something the child says to his mother.
But how then will the child explain to his mother about his position as tyrant, corruptor, forest and rice-field mouse plague?
Will the tyrant name himself the leader of the revolution?
Will the corruptor and errand boy of foreign capital name himself the hero of development?
And will the forest and rice-field mouse plague consider himself the ideal farmer?

But then what of the glowing gaze of his mother?
Is it possible that a mother would say:
“Child, don’t forget to take your jacket.
Remember to wrap up against the night air.
A journalist needs to stay healthy.
Oh, yeah, and if you get any fat envelops,
Please pick me up some fried prawns.”

Mother, now I really understand your value.
You are the statue of my life,
Which isn’t fake or a white elephant like the National Monument and Mini Indonesia Park.
You are the anthem Great Indonesia.
You are the rain I watched in the village.
You are the forest encircling the lake.
You are the lotus flower of meditation’s peace.
You are the song of the simple people.
You are the arrow of my conscience in what I do.

Pejambom, Jakarta
23 October, 1977


A Poem of Mother (Sajak Ibunda) was published in State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 52.

Manuscript

Shifting Landscapes: intellectual writing traditions of Islamic Southeast Asia – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

For the past century, studies of the languages, literatures, history, culture and writing traditions of the Malay world of maritime Southeast Asia – comprising present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and the southern parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines – have been fundamentally shaped by the collections of manuscripts held in European institutions, primarily those in the UK and the Netherlands, and those formed under colonial auspices, such as the National Library of Indonesia.  These collections themselves reflect the interests of their collectors, who were mainly European scholars and government officials from the early 19th century onwards, whose interests were focused on literary, historical and legal compositions in vernacular languages such as Malay and Javanese.  Relatively little attention was paid to works on Islam written in Arabic, or in Malay and Arabic, and hence such manuscripts are very poorly represented in institutions such as the British Library.

Read more: Shifting Landscapes: mapping the intellectual writing traditions of Islamic Southeast Asia – Asian and African studies blog, The British Library

Catatan Najwa Untuk Sumpah Pemudah

Ain’t No Night Fair #6

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 3

We left before dawn to make our way to the station. We queued to buy tickets. The train traveled along the coast, skirting the Java Sea. Sometimes the train would race cars and we watched the sight anxiously. The dust thrown up by cars – dust mixed with every kind of horse dung, human excrement, human snot and spit – billowed up and came to rest on our skin. Sometimes we caught sight of children cheering as they held out hats begging. And this situation had persisted from the time the railway line was opened and trains raged along its rails. Whenever anyone threw food scraps, the children would scrambled against each other. But it isn’t so important for me to relate this.

The train continued on and on, and on reaching the town of Rembang began to turn southward then traveled through teak forests and rice fields. The closer we got to the town of my birth, the more vivid became the images in my mind of its narrow lanes, of its people living in poverty and, of my father. From time to time deer could be seen darting frightened by the hiss of the train, running into the undergrowth with forelegs and hind legs almost crossing over and tight stomachs appearing to almost float up.

The conductor checking our tickets was still the same conductor who had been there when I was young and would often travel to Rembang to visit the beach when the holidays finally arrived. But the conductor was now old and no longer recognized me. He paid no attention to the people on the train, interested only in their tickets.

I glanced over at my wife and said, “Look, the forest is so beautiful.”

Quietly my wife popped her head out the window, then she pulled her head in again and nestled into the corner of the carriage seat.

I gazed at the beauty of the forest. I had gone into that forest once long ago, before at a time when as a scout we had visited the grave of Raden Ajeng Kartini. Her grave was not far from our train then. Suddenly a canyon unfurled before my eyes and I called spontaneously.

“Look at the canyon! It’s so deep!”

I looked at my wife. She lifted her eyelids, and then lowering them again slowly she closed her eyes once more.

I sighed.

I wanted to show off the beauty of my own area, with its canyons and forests, deer and monkeys. Yes, I wanted to do that so much.

Our train passed through stations and stops which were now no more than solitary platforms, passed lime kilns and piles of teak logs, and it all brought memories back to me of my childhood when we would often go on trips by bicycle in and out of the forest. Yes, what a wonderful childhood it had been, which was now past. Now my memories sang sweetly of its beauty.

As the train entered the outskirts of the town of Blora, I noticed open blocks of land. Land where once buildings had stood, and suddenly it dawned on me. These buildings had been flattened by the war. Desperate to know what had happened, I put my head out the window.

Cepu Destruction 10 January 1949 by J. Zijlstra

Then all at once I said, “I hope the telegram did get there. And hopefully someone will be there to meet us at the station.”

My wife opened her eyes, and as our eyes met I said, “We’re here at Blora now.”

She tidied herself, and I did likewise, then the train came to a halt at Blora station. Once more I poked my head out the window, but my eyes were not able to catch sight of the person I had hoped would come to meet us. So it was true, the telegram hadn’t made it.

We carried our things. Then, traveling gently just as it had once before long ago, the horse and buggy carried us to the house I had left all this time. The driver constantly nudged his horse with whip and commands only out of habit. Many of the buildings along the road were destroyed. The Post and Telegraph office which had been the pride of the residents of the small town of Blora was now no more than a crumpled stack of concrete pillars. I drew in a long breath. The statue celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the reign of Queen Wilhelmina was still standing, though its former glory was gone and it was now painted a pale red.

And I did not understand why. Maybe a red militia had painted it when they occupied our town.

Thus when our buggy drew up in front of the house I had left behind so long ago, my young brothers and sisters yelled excitedly, “Big brother’s here! Big brother’s here!”

But they did not want to approach. In fact those who weren’t adults distanced themselves. Possibly their shyness was due to the fact I was now married, and that my wife was now standing beside me. I didn’t really know. Only the brothers and sisters who were now grown up came to help us carry our bags.

When I went into the house, I bumped my head on the roof beam, and it made me think. I had grown taller now. When I had left this house, the roof beams had still been far above my head.

Cepu Destruction 10 January 1949


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Library Photo Collection of the work of J. Zijlstra

Cover photo credit Mata Najwa

Dutch war train

Prayer

By Chairil Anwar

To the Devout Believer

My Lord

In despondence

Even though I face great trouble
I remember You fully, completely

Your searing holy light
Now just a candle’s flicker in darkness silent

My Lord

I have lost form
Am shattered

My Lord

I journey in a foreign country

My Lord

At Your door I knock

I can not turn away

13/11-1943.

 


Pantja Raja, p. 17.

Cover image

On the road to Malang from Surabaya 24 July 1947

Jesus

By Chairil Anwar

To the true Christian.

That is the Body
streaming blood
streaming blood

crumpled
broken

question washes up: am i wrong?

i saw the Body streaming blood
i looked at my reflection in the blood

clearly visible in the eye of the times
this shape at once transforms

closing wound

i fill with joy

that is the Body
streaming blood
streaming blood

12/11-1943.

 


Pantja Raja, p. 17.

Cover image

Portret van G.D.A. Jonckbloet, S.J.

Father G. D. A. Jonckbloet – Noto Soeroto, 1918

Father G. D. A. Jonckbloet

By Noto Soeroto

On 26 September 1918, Father Jonckbloet hopes to commemorate the day which marks 50 years in the Order of Jesus Christ. The grey priest who celebrated his 70th birthday on 28 August, spent 20 years of his working life in India. He will undoubtedly count many friends among our readers and we therefore consider it a privilege that on the occasion of his jubilee we are delighted to express our congratulations.

Godefridus Daniel Augustinus Jonckbloet was born on the 28 August 1848 in Eindhoven. After attending high school at Sittard at the high school, on 26 September 1868 he joined the Order of the Jesuits at Mariëndaal at Grave (North Brabant). He studied philosophy at Laval in France and theology in Maastricht, and was dedicated to the priesthood in this city on 8 September 1881, and subsequently studied at Sittard. In 1886, the young scholar contracted a lung disease which required him to stay for a year in Davos. Thanks to regular outdoor treatment, he recovered from the dangerous disease and in memory of this wonderful healing at this blessed place Davos he gives thanks till the present. After a few years in Maastricht where he was busy with literary studies, Father Jonckbloet left for India, where he set foot at Batavia on 6 November 1890. In turn, he stayed at Semarang, Weltevreden [Jakarta], Buitenzorg [Bogor], Magelang and Surabaya and finally became a priest in Malang in June 1897. He soon came to love the country. His major interest was mainly the monuments of Old Java, which is the reason he visited the Borobudur, Méndoet – and Prambanan – temples numerous times and travelled from Surabaya to Bali and Lombok. He once dreamed of writing not an archaeological dissertation about Borobudur but rather an epic poem. Unfortunately, the outline of this great poem has gone and sadly the poet has turned away from the idea.

It is to Malang, however, that Father Jonckbloet has deployed his greatest energy in the service of his priestly labors. A beautiful church, a parsonage and a guesthouse for the Ursuline sisters, all built by Father Jonckbloet, bear witnesses to the work of the beloved cleric and stand as a demonstration of the great love that the priest had for the town and its parishes. Over the years, Father Jonckbloet has acquired countless friends in India, both among the Europeans and the Javanese. Great goodness and human love, gentleness and a spirit of sacrifice are the fundamentals of Jonckbloedt’s character which mark the priest a true Christian.

[206] Add to that a very congenial manner in his dealings with others, and it does not surprise us, that Father Jonckbloet has many friends and admirers in both India as well as the Netherlands.

No wonder, too, that many friends have joined together to honor the man who has done so much for his church and his society. The intention is to establish a fund called the “Jonckbloet Fund”, which will provide training in the Netherlands for Catholic Indonesians, for different positions and relations in general, but for the priesthood in particular. Contributions for this fund will be received at any time by Dr. J. G. C. Vriens, Secretary of the Committee, Paulstraat 1, Nijmegen.

Apart from sanctifying his friends, Father Jonckbloet is mostly known as a man of letters. From his youth, literature has been his favorite study which he has demonstrated by his numerous works, among which we mention the likes of Isaiah which is an interpretation in Dutch verse of the entire book of Isaiah’s prophecies, a work carried out in the face of numerous pressures. Besides this, he also produced smaller works of a purely religious character.

Even in India, the learned Father has always combined the literary life with the life of the clergy. In India he wrote two fine collections of literary critiques Uit Nederland en Insulinde, his study of Multatuli and his collection of poetry Lief en Leed. His extraordinary productivity is evidenced by his many articles in journals like “De Java-Post” [The Java Post], “Het Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad” [The Batavia News] and “Studiën” [Studies].

Due to throat cancer, Father Jonckbloet left India on 18 June 1908 arriving on 9 September 1909 in The Hague where he settled in the parsonage Da Costastraat to the present. Although the Indian years and serious ailments aged him, the friendly grey man is still the epitome of a young and enthusiastic mind. His pen still moves with a youthful fire. After 1909, several monographs including Lady Anna de Savornin Lohman, In Memoriam: Eugène van Oppen and very recently a collection of poetry Refloruit Cor Meum [Blossomed Heart]. Still appearing in “Studiën” and other periodicals are articles by his hand which abound in fresh enthusiasm.

It was true that attempts were made by the Catholic side to collect a compilation of all Father Jonckbloet’s works which are spread far and wide in many collections. This would be an asset for the literature of the Catholic world. A very interesting book would also be the same, but the literary work of Father Jonckbloet coincided with the great reversal here of these lands of the 1880s and following years. It is remarkable to see how one educated in the ideas of the early 1880s slowly begins to turn in his old age to so beat that he sometimes lauds the most modern poets with a sound as loud and possibly even louder than the exuberance exuded by their own sympathizers. An example of this could extend to the six very detailed and elaborate articles which he published in “Studiën” two years ago on the socialist poet Henriette Roland Holst.

Finally, I allow myself to say a personal word of thanks for the attention and the wide-ranging testimonial in “Studiën” which the grey priest wished to dedicate to my own work. Thank you also for the friendship he has shown me. How beloved must be this true Christian, this noble man and this loyal friend by his own fellow believers!

For many years now, countless friends and worshipers have been allowed to press his trembling hands, behold his venerable face and hear his always friendly voice, made hoarse by a previous throat operation.

‘s-Gravenhage 18th September 1918.

Multatuli by G. Jonckbloet R.C. Priest and Pastor in Batavia

Multatuli by G. Jonckbloet R.C. Priest and Pastor in Batavia (http://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=urn:gvn:MULM01:BR-OM-1894-L4)

 


Source:   Netherlands-India, old and new (year 1918, volume 003, issue 007)

On the career of Noto Soeroto see Mirror of the Indies: A History of Dutch Colonial Literature, Robert Nieuwenhuys, p. 184.

For background on Indonesian students in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century see Indonesian Identities Abroad: International Engagement of Colonial Students in the Netherlands, 1908-1931.

Background on the Catholic community of Malang

Image of Father G.D.A. Jonckbloet, S.J. and other material held by the National Library

For a good list of Jonckbloets writings

Najwa Shihab of MetroTV's Mata Najwa Globe Asia Cover "99 Most Powerful Women"

Ain’t No Night Fair #5

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

… Suddenly those thoughts died as my eyes fell on one small hamlet in the middle of rice fields surrounded by bamboo thickets and trees. I knew the conditions in this hamlet all too well. At that time, the hamlet had been under the control of a gang of outlaws. Once with my platoon I had been on patrol there and made a detailed report. The report would now be lying buried in some cupboard. I had become acquainted with one very attractive woman in particular. As the hamlet was owned by a large landowner, the thought occurred to me that the woman would have to have been mixed race. But that didn’t matter and her father had made me an offer, “If you marry my daughter, I will no longer need to work. There’s a sizeable amount of land here and you can take half of my fields.” I was completely intoxicated by the offer as I listened. At the time, poverty always circled in the sky ready to swoop down on your head. Yes, the thought of the offer made me smile at the time. But the patrol was to last no more than a day and a night and before long our platoon made its return to base.

I did return to the place later though, but the beautiful woman had been kidnapped by the gang of bandits. I would return home again filled with regret, but happy also that I had not sold myself out. Nevertheless, the beauty of the woman and her fate would continue to haunt my thoughts.

Then in my heart I told myself a story which went like this.

“The woman was now living contentedly with the bandits who had kidnapped her. She would by now have given birth to two young children and her body was adorned with silk and gold and diamond-studded jewelry.”

The train thundered on at high speed. The hamlet too vanished, from my view, and from my memory.

I coughed.

“You are too close to the window,” said my wife.

Dutch war train

We changed places. I drew the collar of my coat up tightly around my neck then I leaned back against the seat and closed my eyes. I dropped off to sleep, but my sleep was not to be secure as the train was beginning to fill with new passengers. Then I drifted back to sleep once more. Arriving in the district that had only recently been cleared of the threat and terror presented by the Darul Islam movement, we could see damaged telegraph wires, tangled and twisted around their poles which were lying bent, strewn on the ground.

“Well, not a chance the telegram has arrived there,” I said.

“No, the telegram couldn’t possibly have arrived,” my wife echoed. The train roared on, and on. And on, all the way to Semarang.

We slept the night at a hotel and although the hotel was grubby, we were nevertheless able to sleep soundly.

Dutch patrol at Semarang, Java, 23 July 1947

(Continued)

 


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection

Mata Najwa Globe Asia Cover Photo Credit

Mata Najwa "Generasi Antikorupsi #KitaKPK"

Ain’t No Night Fair #4

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

… My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.

I sighed.

I could feel a shudder in my chest and I moaned.

“What’s wrong?” my wife asked.

“I might be coming down with a cold,” I answered.

“Put on your coat.”

I slipped on the coat I had taken off previously after putting up our suitcases at Gambir station. After that effort I had felt very hot and the feeling of having a temperature added to the pressure of the fear that we wouldn’t get a place to sit.

I fastened the buttons.

“You catch colds quite easily,” my wife added.

Coldly I didn’t respond to her reminder.

Now in my mind there appeared the sight of a grave, the final resting place of every person, despite certain people sometimes not finding a place in the womb of the earth. Yes, sometimes sailors, or soldiers in times of war, often they do not find a final resting place. And in my mind I imagined that it was my father who did not find a place.

I shuddered.

My eyes misted. But not enough for tears to fall.

“Ah, I do not want to listen to every thought in my head,” I screamed to myself.

And I thought. If only I could win the lottery. What a sweet dream that was. And that dream was ended by an old idea, the idea that at the end of the day every person passes away. Death. Sickness. And sickness brought my thoughts back to my father.

Once more I sighed.

“Hopefully your uncle should have waited before writing that letter,” my wife said. “Hopefully your father’s condition isn’t as bad as he described.”

Again I looked her straight in the eye. They were eyes that were now no longer of any interest to me. This time she lowered her head and rearranged her hair which was moved by the wind.

“Hopefully,” I said.

I turned yet again to stare out the train window. Rubber plantations chased each other. Small towns which I had often passed before I was once more going through again. And dozens of memories, some of which were bitter and some of which were happy, with a force I could not control assaulted my mind. And at that moment I became conscious. Sometimes people do not have the power to resist their own memories, and I smiled at this consciousness. Yes, people unknowingly are too strong and repress their awareness. I smiled again.

“What time is it, brother?” my wife asked.

I swung my eyes in her direction and again my gaze landed on her eyes, those once wonderful eyes that now held no interest for me. Just for a moment. Then I dropped my eyes to my watch.

“It’s almost nine o’clock,” I answered.

“Maybe he’s already received the telegram.”

“Hopefully he has,” I said.

And I swung my gaze to stare out the window again. The telegram now appeared in my mind. Just maybe the telegram which had said “Tomorrow arriving with my wife” would be of some comfort to my father. In fact this hope had not even been my own.

The previous night a friend had said, “You’ve been in prison so long. Two and a half years! And all that time your father was definitely wanting you to come home. And not only that. He was definitely worrying about how you were too.” And that is what had made me send him, I mean, have somebody else send him, the telegram. That friend had also said, “You have to go. Maybe you visiting him will make him feel better, help him recover.”

(Continued)

1940s Netherlands Indies Government Lottery Semarang

1940s Netherlands Indies Government Lottery, Gang Pinggir, Semarang (Source: http://reklamejadoel.blogspot.com.au)


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection

Mata Najwa Generasi Antikorupsi #KitaKPK Photo Credit

Jihat Anti-korupsi Mata Najwa

Ain’t No Night Fair #3

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2 (continued)

… I swung my head, and my eyes too, from her stare and gazed out the train window again.

We were at Lemah Abang now.

All at once an old memory shimmered into my mind. Before, four years ago. Completely out of the blue, the Dutch had rained shells on our defenses from three directions using between eight and ten Howitzers. The number could be worked out by the fighters who had previously been soldiers in the Netherlands East Indies artillery. The people had panicked and run out in the direction of the rice fields. I still remember the time. I cupped my two hands and shouted, “Don’t run! Get on the ground!” But there were too many of them, and they were too confused, too frightened, and they were incapable of hearing my voice. And when I fell to the ground behind a large tree I was able to see one, then two, three, four, five artillery shells explode among the mass of scattering people. Bodies. Corpses. And my mind ran through the blood, injuries, bodies, to the letter, my uncle, and finally, to my father.

I sighed. My heart ached. I was indeed sensitive. And my family was full of sensitive creatures.

I closed my eyes tightly so I couldn’t see the scene around Lemah Abang. But the remnants of those memories would not leave my mind. The extraordinary achievement of the Dutch shooting, four sheep killed in front of their pen. And this is what was so upsetting: one old sheep, pregnant, eyes gazing into the sky, head resting on the rail of a pen post, with its two hind legs kneeling and its forelegs standing up straight. And the sheep was dead. I rocked the body of the sheep slightly and it tottered to the ground. It didn’t move. Really, it was dead. A friend suggested, “Let’s just cut it up.” I stared at its eyes which were open and pallid. I could feel a shiver run down my spine, and I ran all the way home. It was three days before I could get the vision of the sheep gazing into the sky out of my head. The sheep! My memory circled back again, the sheep transformed into a person, and that person was my father.

I sighed.

(Continued)

Karawang sector, 23 July 1947

Karawang sector, 23 July 1947. A convoy of the Dutch 7th December Division in the town Cikarang on route Karawang. http://www.gahetna.nl


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection

Anti-corruption Jihad photo credit

Burnt out car of a Brigadier A W S Mallaby

Ain’t No Night Fair #2

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 2

… Early that morning the first train flew along its tracks from Gambir station. Now there was only a quarter of the number of the tall red earthen mounds left which I had seen everywhere before during the Japanese occupation each time I returned to Blora. Settled by the rain. Chipped away. Dragged off by the rain. Then suddenly a horrible feeling came over me as I noticed all of the mounds of red earth at Jatinegara station. Aren’t the lives of all of humanity chipped away every day, squeezed down, and dragged off like those mounds of red earth? And as I was married, and because my wife was sitting next to me, I turned briskly to look at her.

“We’re not going on a honeymoon. We’re going to visit someone in hospital this time,” I said.

Gambir Railway Station Jakarta

Gambir Railway Station, Jakarta 1945

The roar and hiss of the train that had started to move off once more prevented me from hearing her reply. Her mouth was all that I could see opening and closing.
“We get to Blora tomorrow at twelve midday,” I continued.

I watched her nod, then turned back once more to gaze from the carriage window. The morning mist was beginning to thin and then Klender station appeared from the window. The carcasses of Dutch armored pantserwagen, British brengun carriers and old trucks still lay scattered across fields and along the sides of the main roads, English weapons which had been disabled by the groups of youth militia fighters, and disabled too by their own old age. Then suddenly I recalled: the youth militia fighters who had been under pressure from the wealth of firepower of the foreign forces had made it to the other side of the Cakung River.

The train then passed through Cakung station. I had so many recollections of this tiny hamlet. Cakung, among the rubber plantations, where the situation had changed so often, youth militia fighters pinned down one minute, then the foreign forces the next.

I drew on my cigarette. Now the morning cold and cool breeze weren’t as unpleasant as before. Barren empty rice fields and rice fields whose harvest time had all but arrived exchanged places chasing each other through the window. And before in those fields, there were occasions when single-prop Dutch warplanes had dropped hand grenades on farmers. There were times too when planes had landed in those empty fields and stolen goats from villagers. Yes, I recalled all of these things now. And in that grass too there had been friends then defending the line of the railway track who had fallen sprawling, their blood spraying over the ever green grass.

Dutch warplane

“What time will we arrive at Semarang?” my wife asked.

“Four.”

And I returned to my memories. Kranji station, Tambun. Cikarang. These were a series of defenses before the first military action. And the train continued roaring along. And suddenly I again remembered the letter from my uncle, “has already vomited blood four times!” And my recollections stopped and circled in on that word blood. Then I recalled as well how his letter had continued:

I feel that our father can’t be expected to recover. You can come home, can’t you? Surely, you can come home.

I shivered all over, like someone with malaria. And the military performance disappeared from my head. My father once more filled my thoughts.

“We can’t stay in Blora too long,” said my wife.

I looked at my wife. I could feel my forehead creasing deeply and I replied sharply, “We’ll see how things are first.”

For a moment the memory of my father vanished.

“If we’re there too long maybe I might have to go home ahead of you.”

I was annoyed.

I stared at her. Before. Before when we were still engaged, I had felt her eyes were so completely wonderful. But the wonder had gone now. Yes, her eyes were now just the same as the eyes of anyone else, without any affect on my heart. And I answered her gaze. Perhaps it was my eyes which were awful, as indeed I had known since I was a child, no longer having any affect on her heart either.

I answered, “That’s entirely up to you.”

I swung my head, and my eyes too, from her stare and gazed out the train window again.

We were at Lemah Abang now.

All at once an old memory shimmered into my mind.

(Continued)

Pantserwagen in action in Weleri

Pantserwagen in action in Weleri 1 Augustus 1947 http://www.gahetna.nl


Source: Ain’t No Night Fair (Bukan Pasarmalam) by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Dinas Penerbitan Balai Pustaka, Jakarta, 1959.

National Archive Photo Collection