October 24, 2008

Chronologically Indonesian Literature

Chronologically Indonesian literature divided into several periods:

Pujangga Lama: the "Literates of Olden Times" (traditional literature)
Sastra Melayu Lama: "Older Malay Literature"
Angkatan Balai Pustaka: the "Generation of the [Colonial] Office for Popular Literature" (from 1908)
Pujangga Baru: the "New Literates" (from 1933)
Angkatan '45: the "Generation of 1945"
Angkatan 50-an: the "Generation of the 1950s"
Angkatan 66-70-an: the "Generation of 1966 into the 1970s"
Dasawarsa 80-an: the "Decade of the 1980s"
Angkatan Reformasi: the post-Suharto "Reformation Period".

There is considerable overlapping between these periods, and the usual designation according to "generations" (angkatan) should not allow us to lose sight of the fact that these are movements rather than chronological periods. For instance, older Malay literature was being written until well into the twentieth century. Likewise, the Pujangga Baru Generation was active even after the Generation of 1950 had entered the literary scene.

Traditional literature: Pujangga Lama

Early Indonesian literature originates in Malay literature, and the influence of these roots was felt until well into the twentieth century. The literature produced by the Pujangga lama (literally "the old poets") was mainly written before the 20th century, but after the coming of Islam. Before that time, however, there must have existed a lively oral tradition.


In written poetry and prose, a number of traditional forms dominate, mainly:

syair (traditional narrative poetry)
pantun (quatrains made up of two seemingly disconnected couplets)
gurindam (brief aphorisms)
hikayat (stories, fairy-tales, animal fables, chronicles)
babad (histories or chronicles).

1870—1942: Sastra Melayu Lama

The literature of this period was produced from the year 1870 until 1942. The works from this period were predominantly popular among the people in Sumatra (i.e. the regions of Langkat, Tapanuli, Padang, etc.), the Chinese and the Indo-Europeans. The first works were dominated by syair, hikayat and translations of western novels.

Angkatan Balai Pustaka

Until the twentieth century, ethnic and linguistic diversity was dominant in the vast archipelago, and as a result, no national literature existed. Literature in Malay rubbed shoulders with works in other languages of the region, from Batak in the West through Sundanes, Javanese, Balinese, to Moluccan in the East. It is true that Malay was used as the lingua franca of the colony, and indeed, far beyond its borders, but it could not be regarded as a national language.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, changes became visible. National consciousness emerged among educated Indonesians especially. At the same time, the Dutch colonisers temporarily veered to a point of view which allowed for the education and unification of the Indonesian peoples to self-reliance and maturity, as it was perceived. Indonesian independence, however, was not contemplated by the Dutch. A third factor was the emergence of newspapers, which at the beginning of the century began to appear in Chinese and subsequently in Malay.
Education, means of communication, national awareness: all these factors favoured the emergence of a comprehensive Indonesian literature. The Dutch, however, wished to channel all these forces, nipping any political subversiveness in the bud while at the same time instructing and educating Indonesians, in a way the government saw fit. For those reasons, an official Bureau (or: Commission) for Popular Literature was instituted under the name Balai Pustaka, which became some sort of government-supervised publisher. Besides preventing criticism of the colonial government, Balai Pustaka blocked all work that might be conducive to any sort of religious controversy, and anything "pornographic" was avoided: even a novel featuring divorce had to be published elsewhere.
At the same time, school libraries were founded and were supplied by the new publisher. Works in Dutch as well as translations of world literature were brought out, but a burgeoning indigenous literature was also stimulated. From 1920 to 1950 Balai Pustaka published many works in high Malay (as opposed to everyday "street Malay"), but also in Javanese and Sundanese, and occasionally also in Balinese, Batak or Madurese.

Interlude: the '20s Generation

Meanwhile, not all publications in the languages of Indonesia appeared under the Balai Pustaka imprint. As mentioned, this publisher was a government-supervised concern, and it operated in the context of political and linguistic developments. Notable among these developments were an increasing consciousness of nationality, and the emergence of Indonesian as the embodiment of a national language.
It was, however, still a language in development. Indonesian had never been a national language, and to most Indonesians it, or its ancestral Malay, had never been their mother tongue. For all this, in addition to the publications of Balai Pustaka and its magazine Panji Pustaka, various other magazines featured work by Indonesian writers as well, although there was not as yet one particular indigenous magazine devoted exclusively to the emerging literature. However, a notable source was Jong Sumatra, a magazine founded in 1918 as the platform of Jong Sumatranen Bond, the Association of Young Sumatran intellectuals.

Pujangga Baru

As a result of all this, dominant factors in the literary landscape of the 1930s were the following:
National consciousness among young Indonesian intellectuals was well-developed.
These intellectuals had formed various groups: there existed, then, a certain degree of organization.
The need for a national language was felt, as was the need for literary expression in that language.
While a platform for such expression existed in Balai Pustaka, this platform was considered unsatisfactory in that it was government-controlled, and therefore at odds with the urge for nationalist development. The intervention of Dutch language officials was felt to be censorship, and the editorial policy was regarded as an unwarranted harnessing of the emerging language. (Thus, certain words were invariably replaced by more "respectable" synonyms, which seemed to curtail language development as well as freedom of expression.
At the same time, young intellectuals felt that their classic Malay literature had congealed into set turns of phrase, clich├ęd descriptions and conventional plots. While literature cannot but operate between the polarities of convention and renewal, classic conventions were now felt to be over-constrictive, and their Western-style schooling had made them conscious of the possibilities for renewal.

Angkatan '45

The works of authors during this period are dominated by the thoghts of independence and political manner. The works created by angkatan '45 are mostly more realistic, compared to the works of pujangga baru, which are more romantic - idealistic.

Angkatan '50
div class="fullpost" align="justify">Angkatan 50 was characterized by the Kisah magazine, established by H.B. Jassin. This generation of Indonesian literature was dominated by collections of short stories and poetry. This generation was also characterized by the emergence of socialist and communist thought among its authors. Most of these authors were members of an organization called Lembaga Kebudajaan Rakjat (Lekra). The end of this literary generation came when political upheaval connected with the 30 September Movement erupted.