When Determination Breaks Traditions

Arok of Java ( A Novel of Early Indonesia)

Posted by Lulu on Sep 13, ’09 1:11 AM for everyone – Repost from another blog of mine.

Category: Books
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Author: Pramoedya Ananta Toer

ISBN :978-981-05-8045-2
First Published 2007 by Horizon books
Originally published in Indonsia as “Arok Dedes”
Completed by the paintings of M. Yusof-the paintings contained in this book and on the covers are from his collection = Arok Dedes Pramoedya Antanta Toer. “A Visual Interpretation”

Arok of Java is another piece of writing by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. This is also the second book of his that is translated into English that I have read. I have never been disappointed with his piece of writing. There is always something special about his writing.

Arok of Java is indeed an interesting piece of writing. Arok of Java is very much affected by the life of Hinduism followers in the 13th century. People here always associate Arok with Dedes (the bride of Arok from different caste). Arok of Java is a novel of a tale of palace politics, rebellion, conspiracy, and revolution. It is called as “A novel of early Indonesia” as it sets out the beginning of the historical process that began on Java and gives the most vivid picture of political, cultural, and social forces which remain until today. It breaks the cultural rules related to castes of Brahmin the intellectuals, the ksatria the military, and the sudra ( the people, the farmers, the artisans, the laborers. )

In earlier time, people had been affected so much by those castes in society that made the people in the society acted differently towards people from different castes. The different attitudes shown by people from different castes had changed the mindset of most of the people in the society.

The Brahmin with the absolute power never would accept people from the lower castes (Kstaria and Sudra) to involve themselves in managing the government, even sharing the ideas for a better society degraded the Brahmin, thus the death penalty, being caste away, and all the like were the right punishment. People in the century were really paying homage to their God. The Brahmin seen as holly people always cited sayings from Sanskrit to manage people in the society, thus the Brahmin had really an important role in people’s lives.

The Ksatria as the army had the responsibility to guard the Lady consort and the governor’s safety.

While the Sudra, the lowest caste, would only have to dedicate themselves panning gold, making weapons, farming for the sake of the lord governor for the tribute to the central government.

In that time of Arok, a person with peasant background from the ksatria caste emerged as an oppressor of the governor who possessed the power of ruling the government, managing people even by force. The governor in Java was not the same as the feudal lords of Europe. Great kings ruling over large areas. In Java, a figure such as a governor was more like an appointed governor rather than hereditary lord. The governor would remain the government so long as he could pay tribute to the central government. The tribute was gathered by force from the society.

Arok’s origin usually described as a bandit or a brigand. His only target is the Lord Governor of Tumapel (a region on Java) who gains the absolute power and gives penalty with no mercy to those who rebel against him. Arok, as described by Pramoedya in his novel, is a brilliant young man who has had a hard life, yet has the great determination to learn new things. Not only is he capable of fighting (as he was from military caste) but also he is able to cite sayings in Sanskrit, which people believe only the Brahmin caste has the ability to do it. Arok is depicted as a man of peasant background, spending his youth in the rice fields as the adopted son of a farmer. His determination has opened his chance to receive an education of both at the feet of Buddhist and Hindu. He is sudra, who by dint of talent and study, becomes the Brahmin the highest caste. He is sudra, who by dint and talent and study, becomes the real ksatria who has the ability to lead his army.

The amalgamation of the three castes in one person has given him a chance to rebel the governor, conspire to overthrow the governor, end slavery and oppression. How does he overthrow the governor? Now that’s the question you have to find yourself; grab the book, and read it. For sure, the strategies are full of intrigue. In my opinion, Arok as described by Pramoedya, managed to end the unfairness of the castes, which somehow limit the chance for people to be better than they are.

If you think this is only about politics, excuse my review. This is also about romanticism between Arok and the Lady consort ( the wife of the governor)Dedes, jealousy, and friendship.

Five stars go for Pram!

My reasons why I bought the book:
1. Pramoedya is by far my only Indonesian favorite author.
2. It is a Nobel literature price nominee
3. I’ve been very familiar with the name Arok ( and Dedes, usually- as I have written on the review that people always connect Arok and Dedes- Ken Arok and Ken Dedes) since I was elementary.
4. Translated by Max Lane , an Australian works in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, in the Australian Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia.

Should you want to have the book, you can buy it online in the site by clicking here on the link below:

Ganesha Bali


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3 responses to “When Determination Breaks Traditions

  1. Pingback: Discarding Lu’s 16 June’s Thoughts « Lingua Franca·

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