SOME NOTES ON THE DESCRIPTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SHORT STORIES IN INDONESIA
This writing attempts to provide a description of the development of short stories in Indonesia within 1990 - 2000. Along the decade short stories in Indonesia have undergone an interesting and significant development. In all those years, short story as literary work had begun to be appreciated and got its place in Indonesian literature. It has to be noted that the existence of short stories was previously considered only as "The second class literature" compared to that of poetry and novels. It was not only because short story in Indonesia had short history in its development, but also because the genre of short story seemed to be marginalized from the Indonesia literature history. When literary critics discuss and study the Indonesia literature development they have often used novels and poetry the parameter to measure the creative successfulness that Indonesia authors have achieved. Short stories tended to be neglected in such an evaluation. Moreover, there were many Indonesia authors who considered short stories only as a "practice" to write a longer novel.
Slowly, though, all those phenomena have undergone some changes. Short story begun to have its place in Indonesian literature discourse. Among Indonesia literary readers, short story has become a genre that is much more read. This is related to the publication of short stories in newspapers and magazines which has made short stories reach wider and heterogeneous readers. It has to be admidtted also that the publication of Indonesian short stories has much depended on newspapers and magazines. It is such publication that has brought up a terminology "sastera koran" or newspaper literature, that is the literary work which is published in newspapers and has a strong characterictic of "reporting". In newspaper literature, the desire of the authors to get involved in social happenings can be obviously seen. This is shown by the writing of stories which put forward the themes of the on-going social conditions.
For example, when there were many farming land clearings done to build supermarkets, hotels, and malls, such a theme will dominantly emerge in short stories. When there were many gun shots to the students who held demonstrations and riots happened everywhere, such a theme will dominate the themes of short stories published in newspapers or magazines. Also when corruption cases were succesfully revealed, stories about corrupters were much written. Turmoil in Aceh, East Timor, and Maluku has also been written in Indonesian short stories.
So it happened. Newspapers which are characteristically "actual" and "reporting" has much influenced Indonesian short stories, and it is newspapers that have made short story popular, much more read, and eventually a better appreciation towards short story started to grow: short story started to be accepted as an independent literary work. As a literary genre, short story started to be acknowledge. This is provened by many awards that have been given to short stories. Kompas daily newspapers annually selects the best short stories that it has published in the newspaper and then publish them as an anthology. "Dewan Kesenian Jakarta" (Jakarta Arts Board) awarded Anugerah Cerpen Indonesia (Best Short Story Awards) in 1988. Harison, a literary magazine also selected its best short stories published within 1990 - 2000. Too numerous tol mention are the local awards given by some cities such as Riau, Padang, Jogjakarta, Surabaya, Bali, etc.
Such an appreciation has made the development of short stories in Indonesia more exciting. Language exploration, a creation of vigorous metaphors, a search of story telling techniques, up to the exploration of themes have been developed by Indonesian short story writers. Some senior writers such Budi Darma, Hamsad Rangkuti, Kuntowijoyo, Danarto, Umar Kayam, A. A. Navis have continously written, whereas the younger generation such as Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Taufik Ikram Jamil, Yanusa Nugrohom Leila S. Chudory, Arie M. P. Tamba, Ratna Indraswari Ibrhaim, M. Shoin Anwan and many others have been so creatively and productively writing short stories with a literary quality standard.
At the same time, younger short story writers came to surface such as Gus tf Sakai, Yusrizal K. W., Joni Ariaadinata, Abidah Al-Khailiqy, Dorothea Rosa Herliani, Oke Rusmini, Satmoko Budi Santoso, S. Prasetyo Utamo, Herlino Soleman, Triyanto Tiwikromo, Teguh Winarso H. S., and many others. I mention the above names just to show how the creative process has been so conducive that the gap between "the senior" and "the junior" is no longer important. The difference between them is only their age, but the quality they produce canreach the standard of literary work quality. Such a conditon also shows how short stories have undergone an incredible development. There have been so many short stories written and published. Almost every sunday daily newspapers published short stories. If there are 20 newspapers, it means that there are 80 short stories in one month and 960 in one year. The fact shows that there are more than 50 magazines and newspapers which publiched short stories. Really an abudance of short stories!
Related to the abundant number of short stories published in newspapers, an awareness of documenting then started to become a phenomenon. Short story anthologies of newspaper literature were then published and it was within 1990 - 2000 it terached its peak. To mention some of them: Hampir Sebuah Subversi (Almost A Subversion by Kuntowijoyo), Sampah Bulan Disember (Garbage of December by Hamsad Rangkuti), Setangkai Melati di Sayap Jibril (A Jasmine on the Wings of Gabriel by Danarto), Parta Krama (Umar Kayam), Saksi Mata (Eyewitness), Negeri Kabut (A Land of Mist), Penembak Misterius (Misterious Snipers by Seno Gumira Ajidarma), Oknum (M. Shoim Anwar), Menari di Atas Gunting (Dancing upon the Scissors by Abidah Al Khailiqy), Karikatur dan Sepotong Roti (A Caricature and A Loaf of Bread by Dorothea Rosa Herliani), Sagra (Oke Rusmini), Kali mati, Air Kaldera (Kali Mata, Caldera Water by Joni Ariadinata), Cerita di Daun Tal, Bulan Bugil Bulat (A Story on a Tal Leaf, A. Totally Naked Moon (Yanusa Nogroho), Memorabilia, Bapak Presiden Yang Terhormat (Memorabilia, Your Excellency Mr. President by Agus Noor), Kemilau Cahaya dan Seorang Buta (A Glitter of Ray and A Blind Man by Gus tf Sakai), Namanya Massa (It is Called Mass by Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim), Sang Terdakwa (The Accused by Indra Tranggono), Pagi Jumaat Bersama Amuk (A Friday Morning With An Amuck by Taufik Ikram Jamil), etc.
From the situation of short story development described in this paper, there are some interesting things that can be presented here. First, short story has come to an admittance as an independent genre and has unique characters as a literary work. The fact has made many authors have no doubt to choose short story as their main form of expression. Some of the names mentioned in this paper are known as short story writers and some others are poets and novelists.
Second, the publication of short story anthologies open a wider creative possiblity in exploring and experimenting short story writings. Many of the anthology publications also show the interest of publishing houses to publish literary work. Short story has its advantage in this case as it has wider readers and therefore short story anthologies are relatively have good selling compared to poem anthologies.
Third, the exploration and experiment in short stories have made the development of Indonesian short stories provide more various choices. Different from the previous period, in which short stories tended to have similar story telling techniques and themes, in these past ten years Indonesian short stories have various forms and styles: realism, surealism, absurdity, or even the meeting between realism and magical realism, and also the experimentation of postmodernism philosophy. All of these phenomena, perhaps, reflect the very rapid social and cultural changes in Indonesia. Something like culture shock: the melting of various values and thoughts which seize each other to find a room of literary expression. Such a situation also reflects their different aesthetic orientations among generations. It can be seen from the way the "older writers who are established" and "the younger writers who are restlessly seeking for a (new) aesthetic values". Life of values which are shaking yet challenging to be responded and expressed through literary work which in this case short story.
Related to that, the fourth is that in responding and expressing the social and cultural changes, literary authors seem wanting to give a witness, that is a witness on the abundant of social turmoil, the injustice brought up by the change, especially by the development which is full of paradoxes. Short stories seem to be written to describe the social inequality that is occurring.
Probably this is the reason why short stories are more easily accepted by Indonesian society as they represent the picture of people in the midst of spiritual confusion which has silently been striking them. By reading them, readers will more or less notice the social reality that is happening around them. Besides, readers will absolutely experience what is called "literary experience", that is an aesthetic experience which emerges through understanding a literary work. Language and story exploration that has done by many literary authors has made readers enjoy a journey to imagination which is enlightening and refreshing, or even liberating, which means liberating from a boring routine.
In elevating the social and cultural change themes, Indonesian short stories see it from the dark side only. That has made a theme of alienation dominated Indonesia short stories: the alienation of people in facing changes that they do not thoroughly understand and also the alienation of those who are marginalized. That's why a portrait of alienated and marginalized are dominant in Indonesian short stories. Those who are alienated and marginalized are usually poor people or who are suffering from political and social loss. In such a situation, stories which elevate women themes seem to be more gloomy. And it is this issue that becomes the fifth tendency of sophisticated Indonesian short stories, that is those which elevate gender issues, women's problems among a patriarchal social and political system. Dorothea Rosa Herliani, Oke Rusmini, Nenden Lilis A., Ratna Indraswari Ibrahim, Sylvia Mona, are short story writers who elevate such women's issues.
An attempt to explain the development as mentioned in this paper obviously has a risk of simplifying problems. A literary development in a certain period is naturally known through some phenomena. But the undercurrent that has moved the development is possible untouchable. This shoct conting should be treaeed in such a critical way. In other words, what nes been explanred is a general tendency that has been occurring. An intensive and deeper research on this matter is much more needed, moreover in facing changes that has been occurring in Indonesia. Literature, on one hand, is attempting to actively get involved in the changes. On the other hand, the absence of infrastructure and social support both from the government and society has made a lot of work take a marginal place. That's why, an awareness of building culutural basis to grow a more conducive creative process is now emerging in Indonesia. The cultural basis has become an oasis for the meeting of creative synergy of art workers. The following situation might help to explain what has been occurring in Indonesia: that creative process must continuously grow and be developed not by other people (non-literary authors), but by the authors themselves. Recently, therefore, there have been many literary events held by independent institutions, that is institutions which are established by individuals who have strong commitment to Indonesian literature development. And that is what is happening in Indonesia. The publication of literary work are much supported by small publishing houses, which basically only have small financial capital but have strong will to publish literary work. Even literature discussion forums are also held by independent communities which finance their organization activities on their own. Literary forums are held due to the good relationships among authors. I think those are interesting phenomena in Indonesia and probably it is such an equal and open cooperation that should be developed in Southeast Asian Writers Meet 2001.
© Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Malaysia. SEMUA HAK CIPTA TERPELIHARA 2002
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