Tempo Doeloe by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

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Another masterpiece by Pramoedya, I have to admit this book has taken me by surprise. The title said it from the beginning: “Tempo Doeloe: Antologi Sastra Pra-Indonesia,” and once I accidentally opened the book halfway before I started to read it, I was mixed with both surprise and thrill to find out that the book is written with the old Indonesian spelling.

The book, compiled by one of Indonesia’s most prominent writer, contains 8 short stories written not by Pram himself, but instead by various different writers in during the late 19th to early 20th century. This was when Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies back then. Even though he did discussed a number of literary works written in that era, Pram said that he decided to collect and select only the ones with similar theme that could chronologically sum up the progress of the politics-social-economic situations of the citizens, especially the ones that keeps getting worse towards the natives, starting from the 17th century up to the 19th century. Pram also decided not to change the language style and spelling of the original versions, although I kind of wonder whether he at least simplified it–and this is what I had previously stated as the one that had taken me by surprise earlier. Only recently finishing another book by Pramoedya, Sang Pemula, I decided to move on to this book just because Pram kept referring to this book in his biography of R. M. Tirto Adhi Soerjo. As soon as I found out that the stories are written in Bahasa Melayu Pasar (Malay), I recalled my experience of struggling with the language style used in Sang Pemula, which mostly consisted of articles written by Tirto Adhi Soerjo in Malay language used during his time. Therefore, it’s no wonder that I only expected to meet the same struggle. Turned out I was wrong, and this was what had really strike me.

Despite the old spelling and the old style, as well as the use of words that has now either unused or change in meaning, I found it much easier actually to understand the meaning. Even much easier than when reading Sang Pemula. Pram did provided footnotes for each stories with explanations of those long-forgotten words, but many times I found it unnecessary because I already deduced the meaning, and when I decided to double check, I only found confirmation of what I had guessed before.

Now, the 8 short stories in the book are: Dari Boedak Sampe Djadi Radja (A Slave Who Becomes A King) by F. Wiggers–which tells a story of Surapati, Pieter Elberveld by Tio Ie Soei, Tjerita Rossina (A Story About Rossina) & Tjerita Si Tjonat (A Story About Tjonat), both by F. D. J. Pangemanann, Tjerita Njai Dasima (A Story About Njai Dasima) by G. Francis, and the last two are Tjerita Kong Hong Nio (A Story About Kong Hong Nio) & Tjerita Nji Paina (A Story About Nji Paina) written by H. Kommer.

Looking into an insight of the Dutch East Indies, we could find out more about the condition and situation of the era from multiple perspective (the Natives’, the Chinese’s, and the Indo’s). My personal favorites are Tjerita si Tjonat and Tjerita Kong Hong Nio.

I did learned that the Dutch used to enforce a racial politics where people were supposed to dressed up based on their race, and they would need formal letter of permission to allow themselves wearing outfits belonging to other racial groups. Or that the term “Islam” or “Slam” was used to address the Natives, regardless of their actual religion.

Of course, as a language geek, the language style and the old spelling are amongst those that really intrigued me. Even simple stuff such as “kabaja” that apparently means pajamas, or the term “peloek dada” (literally “hugging one’s own breast”) means folding your arms, and “menjaru” means to disguise yourself, even those really captivates me.

What’s even more interesting is the thought-provoking comments on the back of the book that the enforced New Spelling created by Soeharto’s regime during the New Order is merely politics in disguise, yet it had unfairly treated literary works belonged to the previous Order as old and outdated.

Overall, again, I would highly recommend this book to you who are interested in Indonesian history, or you who are just a language geek like me (I’m still checking my geekiness level… Hold on), or perhaps are interested to the history of Indonesian language. I think at this point we can safely assume that I already fell in love with this book.

Reading Survey

Found this reading survey here, and I thought this is not a bad idea to kill time and share some books that I’ve read.

  1. Favorite childhood book?
    Eeeerrrrrr, is manga included? Because my answer would probably be the Dragon Ball series. If no then I guess it would be Enid Blyton’s books.
  2. What are you reading right now?
    Country of Origin by E. du Perron. Borrowed the book from my office, which would mean the book belongs to my boss. I blame the title, the cover design, and the summary for making me curious to read this.
  3. What books do you have on request at the library?
    Eeerrrr, I’m not really a member of any public library right now, but a friend of mine generously sending me books from her office’s library (which is opened for public) and I’d request any books available from my reading list if there’s any. Last time, I requested a book by Lisa See, titled Peony in Love.
  4. Bad book habit?
    Hmmm, taking too much time to finish a book? Is that a bad habit? Or smelling the paper (unless the book is very dirty), or feeling the paper especially when it comes to new books? Eeerrrr, underlining words or sentences that I like (doesn’t apply if the books are borrowed) ? Reading before sleeping and then shove the book away somewhere on my bed?
  5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
    From my friend’s office’s library? Schindler’s List by Thomas Kennealy and Peony in Love by Lisa See. From my office’s library: Country of Origin by E. du Perron. From my other friends and families’ private library: A huge pile of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s works.
  6. Do you have an e-reader?
    Not specifically an e-reader, I suppose. E-books that I read would be from my Galaxy Tab II and my iPhone. But no, I’d prefer read books to ebooks.
  7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
    One book at a time. The idea of having a book unfinished would bother me a lot. I’d leave a book unfinished if I think it’s really, really boring or I found it too difficult to understand. If it’s the latter I’d usually get back to the book someday soon.
  8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
    Hmmm, not really.
  9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
    Coelho’s By The River of Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. An utter disappointment.
  10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
    Eeerrr, wow, this is tricky. Maybe I’d pick the one I consider the most entertaining: Planet Word by J. P. Davidson. Quite a light reading, but not too light.
  11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
    My comfort zone being those genres I like? Hmmm, quite often, I guess. Books that I pick for myself (and buy) are usually those with genres I like, but I’d usually read anything any of my friends recommend me to read. That should explain why my reading list got expanded pretty fast.
  12. What is your reading comfort zone?
    Hmmmm, regarding the genres I like: anything related to philosophy (such as Gaarder’s work), historical fiction or non-fiction, debate between religion vs atheism, pantheism, agnosticism, and such, and life struggles. And maybe the works of those authors who are highly skilled to play with words (and I’d include Michel Faber here).
  13. Can you read on the bus?
    I can read everywhere, as long as I don’t have a headache or dizziness, and as long as I have enough light to read the printed words. This habit always irritates my mom.
  14. Favorite place to read?
    My room. Coffee shop. Cafés.
  15. What is your policy on book lending?
    Take good care of them. Do not fold any pages, not even the cover unless it’s already folded before borrowed. And do not lose them.
  16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
    NO. Especially with borrowed books. I used to do this in the past a few times whenever I’m lacking any bookmarks, though. But now I’d rather use anything that I could use as a bookmark when I don’t bring any rather than folding its pages.
  17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
    Nope. I know some friends who do, though.
  18. Not even with text books?
    Well, they are two different kinds of books. So yeah, I do that with textbooks sometimes.
  19. What is your favourite language to read in?
    Eeerrr, this is tough. I speak English and Bahasa Indonesia, and with authors such as Pramoedya or Ahmad Tohari (Bahasa Indonesia) and Faber, or Stieg Larsson, I can’t decide. I love reading in both languages if the authors narrate the words beautifully.
  20. What makes you love a book?
    Errrm, the language style (definitely Faber), the theme and genre (I’d probably refer to Gaarder most of the times, but Jonathan Franzen and Stieg Larsson also never ceases to amaze me).
  21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
    How infatuated I was with the book, or how inspired I was with the story (again–I hope you’re not bored yet, I never tire myself recommending Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, or Gaarder’s The Castle in the Pyrenees, as well as Vita Brevis, also Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy).
  22. Favorite genre?
    Oh well, I discussed the genre already in no. 12 (which means that no. 12 definitely didn’t refer to the genre–but I can’t think of anything regarding the reading comfort zone other than the genre).
  23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
    Eeerrrr, politics? Law? (These two are my grandad’s favorites.)
  24. Favourite biography?
    Wow, erm, I can’t think of anything. I don’t remember reading so much biography, really. I usually read information about someone famous via Wikipedia rather than through books.
  25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
    Does Personality Plus by Florence Littauer considered a self-help book?
  26. Favourite cookbook?
    Okay, why is this question included? Moi and the kitchen? Not compatible.
  27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
    Aaarrrggghh, this year? Inspiring? Hmmm, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley, I guess (and I answered this only after I retraced my steps through my reading list, again).
  28. Favorite reading snack?
    Aaawww, Amanda Scott’s Scottish historical romance!
  29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
    Eerrr, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho. As for me, I really think Coelho’s overrated.
  30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
    Not very often, really. But I sometimes check out reviews from the internet to get me another perspective of the book. In case I miss something, I guess.
  31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
    Quite bad, actually, especially if the book is a friend’s favorite. I’d usually argue with my friend if this happens.
  32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
    French. And Norway. It’d be super to be able to read Gaarder’s works in his native language.
  33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
    That I’ve ever read? Hmmm, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, and perhaps The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński.
  34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
    Dicken’s classics. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave. Read the introduction (which is actually a verse from the bible, geez!), and I thought to myself, “No. I’m not ready to read this. No way.”
  35. Favorite Poet?
    Hmmm, I’m not really into poet, to be frank. I do have the Selected Works of Henry Lawson in my room, though. Still trying to read it.
  36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
    From my friend’s office’s library? As much as my bag could hold. They told me that I could borrow as many books as I want (devil smirk). From my office’s library? 1. From families and friends’ libraries? As much as they allow me to, huahahaha.
  37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
    Almost never these days. This is why I usually prefer to borrow from libraries where they allow me to borrow books as long as I want to, because if not then I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the book. I used to do return books unread during my high school days, though, since they only allow me to borrow the books for a certain amount of period of time.
  38. Romola Garai portraying Sugar

    Favorite fictional character?
    Lisbeth Salander (from Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy), Sugar (the smart whore from Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White), and Flora Aemilia (from Gaarder’s Vita Brevis).

  39. Favourite fictional villain?
    Villain? Bad guys? Rigaud/Blandois from Dickens’ Little Dorrit. Played very brilliantly in the TV series by Andy Serkis.
  40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
    Hmmmm, I usually bring anything that I’m reading at that moment of the holiday period, so… no particular book.
  41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
    Okay, I really don’t remember this one.
  42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
    The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński, and I’d nominate C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series.
  43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
    My Macbook and my iPhone for sure, hahaha.
  44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
    Honestly, I never really like film adaption, unless I watch the movie first before I read the book, because if I read the book first I’d usually be disappointed. Hmmm, I guess my favorite though, would be…. The Millennium Trilogy and… The Lord of the Rings. And if I could nominate a TV series, I’d go with Little Dorrit (a 2008 BBC series).
  45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
    Definitely Harry Potter (sorry Potter fans, but to me, none of the movies really satisfied me. Watching the very last HP movie instead make me miss the book even more, but DIDN’T make me want to watch the movie again and again).
  46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
    150-190 thousand-something Rupiah. I know for sure I wouldn’t spend more than 200 thousand Rupiah for just a book, no matter how much I love the book–unless the book is really good, or something that I reaally, really, really want.
  47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
    Do it all the time before I start to read a book, or buy a book.
  48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
    If the plot’s too boring or too complicated for me to understand (at the moment of reading). If it’s the latter, I’d usually give it another try.
  49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
    Yes. I have a bookshelf in my room, and I always laminate my books (and often, my friends’ books as well), before I start reading them.
  50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
    Keep books. A friend of mine told me that I ought to sell those books one day, and I simply told her I’d give it a thought, but not now. I’m not ready to let go of my “babies.”
  51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
    Yes. Goosebumps. I avoid anything horror. Including movies and TV series. Never watch The Ring, Ju-On, and Jelangkung.
  52. Name a book that made you angry.
    Because it turns out to be a complete disappointment and completely time-wasting? By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Coelho.
  53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
    Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wasn’t so much captured by her previous work Eat, Pray, Love, so I didn’t really expect to actually like this one. But it turned out I did. As well as Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
  54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
    By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Coelho. That’s why it’s such an utter disappointment.
  55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
    Hahaha, romance, though I don’t read all kind of romance (and I usually read them only to criticize them later). Historical romance would definitely caught my eyes. And sometimes I read chick lit, too, although usually it would revolve around Meg Cabot’s or Sophie Kinsella’s works, hahaha.

The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger

SO, this the famous masterpiece by the Salinger. Who doesn’t know this book?

Well, me.

Me and most others Indonesian, to be precise. (Okay, me and most other Indonesian that I know, to be even more precise.)

Especially since we’ve never been assigned to this kind of reading.

And since, despite most of friends in my circle are devoted readers and diligent students, most people Indonesians I know are not very fond of reading, even to read for pleasure.

Let me make this clear first, though: I’m not a diligent student, and I hate reading textbook, especially the thick one, and most especially, if I need to memorize all that I read later for the test. Oh, I hate test too.

But to read for pleasure, without any demand and obligation to memorize everything on the book, is definitely a pleasure to me.

My friend once asked me what books that I prefer to read, and after thinking for some time (and after he asked me whether I like to read fantasy while offering a sci-fi novel to me), I said, “Well, I mostly read everything that is being offered to me, really.”

OK, I lied.

If you offered me a newspaper or books in foreign language that I don’t understand I definitely wouldn’t read it.

And if you’re offering me a Semantics handout (or Psycholinguistics handout), I prefer not to touch those, really, despite my undergraduate thesis revolves around linguistics.

But you get what I mean, don’t you?

I do read most novels that are recommended to me, or given to me, although the duration for the reading to finish may vary, depends on how much I like the book and how much spare time I have.

Anyway, my friend recommended this book once to me, and I found out that this book is quite famous in the States, so I became curious. I found out as well that most schools in the States mostly use this reading as one of the school assignment.

Wow.

But I tried so hard to control myself not to read any synopsis, or plot summary.

I wanted a surprise. No spoiler.

And I was. Surprised, I mean.

But not in a way that I’d expected.

First of all, I was expecting a much more mature reading, in a way that I’d expected a much more mature language, not the teenage slang like the one I read in the whole book.

Strike one.

Then I tried to be patient reading from one page to another, hoping to read some big surprises, something that would really shocked me or something.

And I got shocked, indeed.

In a disappointed way, though.

Frankly speaking, I was kind of surprised with the ending.

You know, when I was reading about all those headaches and stomach pain Holden was suffering, I kept telling myself, “He’ll die. He’ll die. He’ll die. He’ll definitely die by the end of the book. He’ll die.”

I don’t know what to expect.

I guess I was so sure that Holden would die at the end of the book because… I don’t know, because the book was so… bitter from beginning to end (Holden definitely hates everything), and if he died in the end, indeed, then it would add the sense of bitterness, I think. But maybe I was just being too sarcastic.

Way too sarcastic, maybe, since when I reached the last chapter of the book, I was like, “What? That’s it? That’s all?”

And he didn’t even call his crush, old Jane, until the end of the book!

Strike two.

Really, I don’t know what to expect.

Maybe I was expecting an explanation. An explanation to… Holden.

Gregory House
Dr. Temperance Brennan

I had this belief that there’s always a reason behind everything (yes, EVERY THING). When your someone is acting mad, something must have triggered it. When your relatives become extremely snob, there must be a reason behind that change. When your parents become extremely cruel, there must be something on their mind. Even someone as bitter as Gregory House and someone so skeptic like Temperance Brennan had a past that made them become who they are just like we know it now. Even they have reasons. So, yeah, I was actually expecting Salinger to give me an explanation about Holden. He’s bitter, alright, but something must have triggered it. I was kind of expecting Salinger to tell at least a little about his parents, and how he grew up and that. Well, I expect him to explain more than just Allie and Phoebe. There must be a reason why Holden seemed like a failure amongst his siblings while Phoebe and Allie were never so bitter. Perhaps his parents never cared for him as much as they cared for his siblings. Perhaps he was spoiled too much instead.

But no, there’s no such explanation.

Strike three.

All I see is this teenage boy called Holden who’s trying to be mature by acting cool and ignorant about everything, and he definitely gave me the impression that he’s trying to prove that he’s unlike his other ‘childish’ friends, if I could put it that way.

Yet all those stuffs, the language he use, his trains of thoughts and action, only prove that he’s indeed, immature.

At some points, I can see why many teenagers love this book, I guess. But I’ve been wondering what the hell the teachers are talking about when they’re discussing this book in-class. I didn’t even got the chance to discuss this book in my Literature Class in college.

Really, I’m curious.

So I gave in to my curiosity, and finally read some reviews about this book.

Wow. I did not expect that.

That apparently Holden is a symbolism of innocence, who’s trying to protect the innocence, as he said to Phoebe that he wanted to be “The Catcher In The Rye,” yet at the same time he also showed some maturity traits.

And that the part where he gave his hat to Phoebe is a symbol of him being the catcher, and when Phoebe gave back the hat to him, apparently the position reversed.

God, now I understand why my friends hate literature.

Maybe I’m being stupid and ridiculous by not understanding this book at all.

Or perhaps, despite admitting that I do enjoy reading the book, I had put my expectation way too high, and perhaps that’s how I got disappointed.

Oh well, perhaps I should just enjoy the book, shouldn’t I?

Anyone wanna throw tomatoes at me? Or rotten eggs, for I had written a bad review or opinion about this book?