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Ain’t No Night Fair #7

Ain’t No Night Fair

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Chapter 4

We relaxed in the front guestroom. My younger siblings who weren’t grown up yet, who still appeared so wild, now began to draw near and we talked a great deal, about Djakarta, about Semarang, and about cars. The conversation wasn’t boring, it made me happy and it usually carried on for a long time.

And at one point I asked, “How’s father’s health?”

Suddenly everyone went quiet; not one person was looking directly at me. Suddenly the animated joyful conversation was gone, replaced by an air of seriousness.

And I asked again, “How is father’s health?”

Carefully and slowly my sister answered, “We received the pills and the blanket you sent for father. I also received the money order and we used it to buy milk and eggs, just as you instructed.”

My wife and I listened silently. She continued, “I also collected the shirt for father from the post office. And I took the blanket, the shirt, and the pills to the hospital. But father said, ‘Just take them all back to the house.’ So I brought them home again.”

I was surprised and asked, “And the pills?”

“He has finished one container.”

I was pleased a little.

“And the milk and eggs?” I asked again.

“Father didn’t like them. ‘I’m bored with eggs and milk,’ he said.”

I was lost for words. I looked at my wife, but in her face, I did not find an answer. I glanced outside the house. I noticed the orange tree which father had long ago planted. It was dry now and almost dead.

“And father’s health?” I repeated my question.

My younger sister didn’t reply. Her eyes reddened with tears.

“Why don’t you answer me?” I asked fearfully.

“Yesterday and up to yesterday father just smiled, smiled a lot. But then, then…”

She was silent. I did not force her to continue what she was saying. I didn’t say anything either. Both of us sat for a time with our heads bowed. My youngest sister, who had just begun to speak to me, now wouldn’t say a word. The time was only just half-past twelve in the afternoon and the sound of frying could be heard clearly coming from the kitchen.

My younger sister continued, her voice still slow, foreboding and careful. “…and then this morning father wasn’t smiling anymore. His voice was weak and almost inaudible.” Her voice trailed away.

“And what did the doctor say?” I asked.

“The doctor has never said anything to us. There is just one doctor here. And there aren’t enough medicines.”

Then my younger brother, who by chance was home on leave with permission from his commander said, “I’ve discussed father’s illness with the doctor too. He said, ‘I already know about your father’s illness.’”

“Is that all he said?” I asked.

“Yes. That’s all. Then they told me to go home.”

The atmosphere turned serious once more. Everyone sat silently with their own feelings and their own thoughts. Then without realizing it, my younger sister changed the subject of the conversation to a new topic. She mentioned that my third younger sister, the one who was married, was currently in Blora too. Straight away I asked her where she was.

Her hand pointed to the door of one of the bedrooms. All eyes followed the direction she indicated. In my mind, I could see my sister’s face and I imagined she was thin. I knew it; she had to be sick. But I opened my mouth and said, “Tell her to come out.”

My younger sister went over to the door and opened it carefully. Every eye was on her. She disappeared into the room, then she emerged red-eyed and said, half crying, “She’s still asleep.”

We talked about other things. But the image of my sick younger sister filled my mind. It was because of her I wrote the letter to my father, the unpleasant letter, for allowing her to become sick. But at the time I was still in jail. My father had replied:

Yes, my child, throughout my life of fifty-six years I have realized that people’s efforts and means are very limited. For my part, I wouldn’t have allowed your sister to become ill if only I had some power over people’s fates. She became sick when she was detained by the red militia in an area that was swampy, an area rife with malaria. And maybe you can understand yourself the situation with medicines in a war zone, and especially if you yourself are not a soldier.

That reply melted my anger. The question had been clear in my heart, “Did I sin by writing that angry letter?” The answer had come back by itself, “Yes, you have sinned.” And it had been because of that answer I had felt up to this time that I had sinned. Before seeing father again. But that long wandering conversation had removed these terrible memories. I looked at my six younger siblings surrounding me, surrounding my wife and I, starting to be free of the atmosphere of seriousness, while I was still stuck with so many thoughts and memories pressing in.

I noticed my watch. We had been talking for an hour. Then looking at my smallest sister I said slowly, “Please look in on your big sister. Maybe she’s awake.”

She got up, went to the door and called out in her childish voice, “Sister, sister. Big brother’s here.”

She vanished into the bedroom.

No-one was paying much attention to her and the conversation broke out again. But when my smallest sister emerged, the conversation halted. She approached me and whispered, “Sister’s crying.”

I took a deep breath.

Slowly I stood up and went over to the bedroom. And there sprawled on the iron bed devoid of mosquito netting, half blanketed by a light cotton sheet, was my little sister, covering her eyes with her arm. I lifted her arm and I beheld two eyes looking up at me, red and moist. I hugged her. She started to cry and I too wept, and among the sobs, I could hear my own voice ask, “Why are you so thin?”

Her crying subsided and she composed herself, so she was calmer. And I did the same.

“I’ve been sick for a long time, brother,” I listened to her broken voice.

“Have you been to the doctor?” I asked, my voice cracking too.

“I’ve seen the doctor, but my condition just stays like this,” her voice still breaking.

“Maybe it would be better if you went to a large city. There are a lot of specialists there,” my voice still breaking.

There was just sobbing.

“Do you have any children, sister?”

“Yes, brother.”

“Where are they?”

Our crying had subsided, but my sister now broke out in tears again. She answered without emotion, “He passed away, brother. He’s not here anymore.”

She snatched back the arm I was holding and covered her eyes again. I took out my handkerchief and wiped the tears running down her face.

“What do you mean not here,” I asked.

“I gave birth at six months. He cried a lot. I could hear him crying. Then God took him back again.”

Once more I started to weep openly and she too sobbed uncontrollably. All I could hear now was the storm heaving in my chest. And all I could see was her thin body, the single cloth sheet, the small mattress covering only half the bed frame, and the iron and the bamboo slats protruding next to the mattress.

“You’re still young, little sister, you still have the chance to have another child,” I said to comfort her.

“Where’s your husband?”

“He’s doing training in Semarang, brother.”

Our crying, which had filled that room, now subsided and eventually died.

I straightened the blanket, kissed my younger sister on her cheek and I said, “Go to sleep.”

She took her arm away from her eyes. She was calm now. Slowly she closed her eyelids. Once more I kissed her on the cheeks, cheeks that had once been so full and which were now so drawn. Then I left the room.

(Continued)

Duduk Duduk


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

Featured image: After an interval of 11 years, rock band Efek Rumah Kaca play in Pare-Pare, South Sulawesi, December 2018

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Manuscript

The Syair Tabut of Encik Ali, Indonesia and the Malay World

“This is an annotated transcription and translation of the Syair Tabut (Poem of the Tomb Effigies) of Encik Ali, a Malay-language, Jawi-script syair account of the Muharram commemorations of 1864 at Singapore. The only known part lithograph and part manuscript of this text, on which this edition is based, is held in the library of Leiden University, shelfmark Kl. 191. For a full discussion of this Syair, see the accompanying article by Lunn and Byl (2017).”

Julia Byl, Raja Iskandar bin Raja Halid, David Lunn & Jenny McCallum (2017) The Syair Tabut of Encik Ali, Indonesia and the Malay World, 45:133, 421-438, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2017.1374012 from https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cimw20/current

Source: Twitter account of David Lunn

Julia Byl, Raja Iskandar bin Raja Halid, David Lunn & Jenny McCallum (2017) The Syair Tabut of Encik Ali, Indonesia and the Malay World, 45:133, 421-438, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2017.1374012

Zuidoost-Azië: Insulair / Indonesië / Jawa / Jawa Tengah (provincie) / Pekalongan (regentschap)

Pretty

By Murya Artha

We met in plenary session the other day and our leader’s plan
was the decision of the meeting in 1945
on the seventeenth of August four years of bloody history ago
the day we thrashed out the real reason, down to the basic problem
right to the root cause of the tyranny
let us decide, one by one; we have to be boldly democratic

Get past these ugly and disgusting incidents
put aside the dark memories and signs of failure to build
otherwise: one color and the determination of 70 million will have been wasted
under pressure we were the ones who thundered before
who extinguished every trace of the spirit of Deandels and Janfiter Soon Coen…

 


Source: Siasat Magazine, Number 171 Year IV, 18 June 1950.

Murya Artha was born in Parincahan Village, Kandangan, Hulu Sungai Selatan District, South Kalimantan August 20, 1920 as M. Husrien. He used pseudonyms including Bujang Far, Emhart, HR Bandahara, M.Ch. Artum, M.Chayrin Artha, and Artha Artha. He passed away at Banjarmasin October 28, 2002.


Source: (Siasat, 1950) Puisi Murya Artha: Juita

On Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen see Loth, V. C. (1995). Pioneers and Perkeniers: The Banda Islands in the 18th Century. Cakalele, 6, 13-35.

Featured image: Zuidoost-Azië: Insulair / Indonesië / Jawa / Jawa Tengah (provincie) / Pekalongan (regentschap)

 

Detachement op Borneo Hoeloe Soengai, 28 Februari 1949

The Meeting

By Murya Artha

Among those who have roles at meetings,
in the midst of our revolution’s ongoing battle of dexterity
a lot of dead meat heaps up cracked earth
as if this world doesn’t have enough of God’s grace
and never has enough tools to fill the holes.


Source: Siasat Magazine, Number 171 Year IV, 18 June 1950.

Murya Artha was born in Parincahan Village, Kandangan, Hulu Sungai Selatan District, South Kalimantan August 20, 1920 as M. Husrien. He used pseudonyms including Bujang Far, Emhart, HR Bandahara, M.Ch. Artum, M.Chayrin Artha, and Artha Artha. He passed away at Banjarmasin October 28, 2002.


Source: (Siasat, 1950) Puisi Murya Artha: Rapat

Featured image: Slechts weinig is bekend over het leven van de militairen in de Hulu Sungei op Borneo

Dancers With Kris

Comrade

By Murya Artha

I have served up enough gunpowder and saltpeter
a mortal combat, and we have survived:

Only today we write a new page, a page of victory
the accounting of the cost to our country, as high as flying to the stars
and soaring to the seventh heaven
another level and the unity of every nationalist action will be real
one higher even than the teaching of the goal of sovereignty

Banjarmasin, ’50.


Source: Siasat Magazine, Number 171 Year IV, 18 June 1950.

Murya Artha was born in Parincahan Village, Kandangan, Hulu Sungai Selatan District, South Kalimantan August 20, 1920 as M. Husrien. He used pseudonyms including Bujang Far, Emhart, HR Bandahara, M.Ch. Artum, M.Chayrin Artha, and Artha Artha. He passed away at Banjarmasin October 28, 2002.


Source: Kumpulan Fiksi Blog, (Siasat, 1950) Puisi Murya Artha: Kawan

Featured image: Dancers With Kris, J.F.E. (Johan Frederik Engelbert) ten Klooster (Vervaardiging) Inscripties : Serie Wajang Wong 3 / – / Ten Klooster Serie Wajang Wong 3 [Dansers met kris]

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 that 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 traveled 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 devoted 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 the 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