Historicizing fiction, fictionalizing history by Taufiq Hanafi, 31/03/2017, KITLV Blog
Sometimes fiction tells the truth and history perpetuates a fiction. This blog tells us about how history has been used to serve the creation of a national mythology, while fiction has allowed a space for more difficult histories to be worked out.
Similarly, the bleakest moment in Indonesian history is ignored and silenced. Almost all Indonesian written history skips over the mass killings of the communists and left-wing sympathizers after the aborted coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965.
Take the obligatory read for elementary students in the 1990s, Pendidikan Sejarah Perjuangan Bangsa (The History of the National Struggle). We Indonesians were so accustomed to this that we thought the historical events presented in the book were all objectively true. The book instructed students to show admiration for the Indonesian Army for their outstanding success in crushing the September movement of the PKI. It also wanted us to believe that the anti-communist purge was the right thing to do in order to support the national struggle for the just and prosperous society under Pancasila. Furthermore, it created a make-believe world in which Soeharto was a hero who had so much love and respect for his people and his country. As for the massacre, the book remained silent.
In fiction, however, the killings were made (more) clear. Ahmad Tohari in the Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (Dancer of Paruk Hamlet) trilogy narrates the mass killings in Central Java, and describes the close cooperation between the army and paramilitary groups. Mencoba Tidak Menyerah (Trying not to Surrender) by Yudhistira ANM Masardi vividly portrays the systematic massacre and politics of fear through the eyes of a small boy who is searching for his father after he was made to disappear due to his affiliation with the communists. Ashadi Siregar centers his novel, Jentera Lepas, on students who were massacred by the army after the aborted coup, while Umar Kayam in Bawuk questions how society has been dehumanized for not having the courage to address the issue.
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