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Twilight in Djakarta

March 19, 2014

Twilight in DjakartaA country just gained its independence after centuries under colonialism. It is like a fledgling bird learning to fly, still practicing its newly gained democracy. The story is set in the heart of this country, Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.

The book was published first in translation. Maybe the current political situation at that time did not allow the book to be published. I admit that the material in this novel is a bit “sensitive”. The original work was only published several years later.

The story is told in three layers, the life of the poor, the middle class, and the upper class, each with its own portrait of Jakarta. The life is rich with love, suffering, betrayal and ambition. Each with its own dream and its own misery. Together they create the mosaic of “the big kampong”, Jakarta.

Even though it is written in 1960s, it makes me realized that nothing changes much. The corruption and nepotism now are still rampant as in the 60s. Old Order (Orde Lama) has been long gone, New Order (Orde Baru) has passed, but the “business” is still going on. It is kind of depressing seeing that this country does not improve after many decades.

But one thing indeed has changes, and it is not for the better. In the book, it is portrayed that Indonesia was still under revolution. There are the main power player at that time, the communists, the Islam, and the nationalist. Now, the communists are long gone, Islam is going on a new revival, and the nationalists are just names. At that time, all the intellectuals were well read. They read Lenin, Marx, Mao, Hemingway, Shakespeare. Now the intellectuals are not as well read as their predecessor. Give me one Indonesian intellectual who are well read in Shakespeare! Our education is indeed going downhill.

But one thing makes this book loose ONE STAR. The translation! It is quite bad that I loose my temper. The translator mistranslates some terms, and makes the conversation boring.

Example:
1. “baju” is mistranslated as jacket. Baju is simply “a dress”
2. “Lu” (slang, means “you”) is not translated. It makes me quite ill feel to read sentence like this: “Don’t lu want to marry me?” What kind of sentence is that? I realize that the translator wants to keep the local favor, but in this case, it doesn’t work.
3. In slang conversation, several words such as “already” is written as ” ‘lready “. I cannot see its purpose except for annoying the readers.

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