It was near the end of my time in the Netherlands when I strolled around the centrum and decided to go to my favorite bookstore, ABC. I thought, well, I hadn’t read any Dutch literary works! In a shelf I saw a book authored by Louis Couperus, someone whose name I only knew through a street in Delft. It was titled De Stille Kracht and it had a picture of wayang in its cover; apparently the novel talked about a life in the Indies, with a mystic twist.

I thought, sure, interesting.

I started reading the book after my thesis defense (that I had time to read about thesis-unrelated subjects…). The book felt slow in the beginning, but it started to be interesting when the characters played table-turning, something I thought was like jaelangkung or ouija board. Now the mystery began! I practically had the book with me everywhere during all my trying-to-do-all-the-paperworks-needed-for-my-graduation. I was reading the book in TU Delft’s TBM building lobby, waiting for my diploma-supplement, when Wim, my thesis supervisor, approached. He was excited to know my thoughts about the book, so I told him I’d write him after I finished reading. He said something like, he wanted to know my opinion as someone who actually is from the country (as in, former east Indies).

Six month later, here I am just e-mailing him my review. Don’t ask why it takes so long, I have a reputation for being a procrastinator. I guess I could share that with my blog readers, so here it is. By the way, it feels like the novel has several different layers… I’m not very good with symbolism so I will mostly see it from the outer layers.

 

In Indonesia, there is a common ‘question’ about the colonial Dutch that relates to mysticism. It was the “Hey, we have all the black magic, so why didn’t we terrorized the colonialist away with it?” And then other people would be like “Yeah, but the black magic wouldn’t work on them; it only works for people who believe it. Since they didn’t believe it, the black magic didn’t get to them,” I accepted this notion until I read the book. I didn’t realize that someone might have tried to curse the non-native people back then and succeeded, as it was suggested in the book. Of course it is still a work of fiction, but at least the theme was interesting to be explored (or to be written in a novel, in this case) by someone from a Dutch background. Now I’m curious whether this actually happened back then.

(In an unrelated note, I am actually afraid of ghosts and whatnot. When I lived in the Netherlands, I wasn’t afraid of any ghosts, since I thought I wouldn’t understand them anyway. When I got back to Indonesia, I couldn’t even open the curtain at night–I thought there could be a ghost on the window. And this is even when I was in the room with my boyfriend, not alone…)

Going to the deeper layer, the novel also talked about colonialism. This is what I thought of the “symbolic” meaning from all the mysticism presented at the foreground–the silent resistance to colonialism. I remember reading about the hajis who came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t help but thinking that it’s only in the characters’ mind. Could it be that they don’t feel welcomed in the colony? However I can’t comment much about this colonialism layer; I totally have no idea about those! My generation is too far away from the colonial era. I have no clue about the power relation back then. More so about the “silent disapproval” of colonialism, because what we learned at school was about all the resistance movement (e.g. Aceh War, Diponegoro War, Padri War).

Reading the book as a millennial, I got a lot of insights of how life was ~100 years ago. One part that struck me was near the end of the book, where Eva Eldersma described that in Batavia people did their shopping with telephone; that is exactly what I do nearly everyday today (in Jakarta, ha), shopping from my phone! (Well, plus the fact that I actually work in an e-commerce company.) Other than that, it’s fun reading all the different characters’ points of view.

So that was it. Several updates:
  • From the Wikipedia page, apparently the novel was inspired by a real event…
  • Wim replied and he said that my review reminded him of Marquez’s “magical realism”, where magic and mystery have layers. Now I guess I’d add One Hundred Years of Solitude to my reading list…

See you in the next book reviews! I know that I promised a lot to write but in the end didn’t write any of them lol~

Well, setelah novel kesayanganku tamat, LKH ngarang novel lagi: Candi Murca. Rencana bakal spuluh seri, skarang baru yang pertama.

Unlike review2 sebelumnya, aku nggak bakal membandingkan nih novel sama senopati pamungkas ato bende mataram ato kho pinghoo ato whatsoever. Lah blom bacae. Paling bende mataram *jaman kelas empat esde, belom tertarik ngereview* hihi. Let’s get started!!

Identitasbuku: click here (malesnulis xD)

Cerita: penggabungan jaman jadul singosari (ato sebelum singosari? Pokoke ken arok masih jadi maling) dan jaman sekarang yaa sekitar tahun 2011 kalo nggak salah. Nyambung di mana? Reinkarnasi sepertinya, tapi aku merasa ya aneh ajaa soalnya aku merasa hal2 gaib dan ajian2 spt yang ada di situ (eg mengendalikan angin buwat bikin puting beliung) cocoknya tuh ya jaman baheulaaa,, kayaknya nggak nyambung aja samajaman sekarang. Genrenya fiksi, but ada bbrap tokoh yang emang bener2 ada kayak ken arok lohgawe ken umang gitu duehhh. Ehh ini hanya ingatan saya looh based on pelajaran sejarah skula

Gaya bahasa/penulisan/editan/cetakan: naah ini yang saya nggak sreg. Lah aku yang terbiasa baca all lined up dengan bahasa indonesia lumayan baku (maklum saya biasanya baca koran) tiba-tiba haus menghadapi bahasa jawa yang sepertinya menurut penulisnya sudah masuk bahasa indonesia, lah nggak dicetak miring – kan kerasa aneh aja. Kalo urusan bahasa jawakuna ato sansekertanya sih oke2 saja karena ada footnote- nah INI!!! pada buku yang saya beli footnotenya nggak lengkap!!! Jadi cumasampe berapaa.. gitu. Dari total seratusan lebih footnote yg ada keterangannya cuma beberapa puluh kalo nggak salah. Hikshiks. NOTE buat editornya tuh. Oiya – buat cetakannya (cieh cieh LKH uda bikin penerbitan sendiri nii xp selamat ya pak) saya kok dapet yang cetakannya rada miring2 dan kertasnya ada bbrap yang terlipat ya? Satu kritik lagi tuh. Emm apalagi yap? Tanda baca dan ejaan!!!!! Sy juga kurang sreg akan tiadanya berbagai koma yang sepertinya lebih bagus bila disisipkan xD yaa at least buat misalnya kata sapaan. Penempatan huruf kapital juga diperhatikan, okieee?? GANBATTE!!!

Itu tadi buat penulis,, lah isinya kritik doang hihi

Congrat buat pak LKH!! Saya suka cerita2 yg latarnya spt itu,, jaman indonesia masih suka bikin candi, hihi,, saya udah ngikutin gajah mada dari awal lo pak, sy inget sy pernah bikin tugas skula resensi buku – sy ngeresensi salah satu seri gajah mada, ehh resensi saya dinobatkan jadi yg terbaik sekelas dan saya dapet hadiah buku(sy lupa judulnya) dari guru bahasa indonesia saya. Ide cerita dan imajinasi pak LKH keren banget,, ayo bikin film gajah mada!! Oiya, saya secara sadar dan nggak sadar juga jadi mbandingin Gajah Mada sama Candi Murca. Dibanding gajah mada, candi murca keliatan banget fiksi-nya. Tapi keren kok pak. Saya nggak bisa bayangin edisi kesepuluhnya gimana hehe.

Yaa ini sbg ganti aja ya pak, saya nggak usah ngirim kartu pos yaaa,, kan saya udah ngirim kartu pos yang diselipkan di madakaripura hamukti moksa,,