May 8, 2017 by Zoë
Home, the English-language translation of Pulang by Leila S. Chudori, is about what happens to Indonesian communists who happen to be outside of Indonesia when the communist purge of 1965 begins taking place. The story focuses on Dimas, who finds himself in France and unable to return to Indonesia, and his eventual family. The story stretches all the way to the eventual fall of the New Order regime in 1998.
It can be hard to find well-written Indonesian novels, but this is definitely one of them. In terms of plotting and pacing, the novel holds up very well. It also addresses a very interesting scenario and an event in Indonesian history that is often overlooked. (Though less so recently.)
I was particularly drawn to the story of Dimas’s daughter, Lintang, who grows up in France with a French mother. She is raised amongst Indonesians of Dimas’s generation, who are also in exile like her father, but also clearly is influenced by France. While I didn’t always connect with her, I found her experience as the child of a foreigner in a Western country to be on the whole relatable and authentic.
The translation is also lovely. Translating fiction in Indonesian can sometimes result in a very stilted product, but John H. McGlynn has done a fine job with this translation.
Lintang, in particular, makes some questionable relationship choices and finds herself falling in love at first sight, which made me roll my eyes a little bit even though it was remarked upon in the text itself. There are other instances of somewhat unbelievable love affairs, but that happens a lot in Indonesian fiction, so I guess I’m more willing to forgive it? That or the good outweighs the bad.
I really liked this. The translation is very good, the plot is very good, the characters are interesting and believable. I definitely recommend this one!
“Then the next bomb dropped: our passports were revoked and we became, in an instant, a band of stateless people with no fixed identity.”