Money, Morality, and Modernity: A Javanese Remake of a 1930 American Whodunnit in 1960s Indonesia

In: Philological Encounters
E.P. Wieringa Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Islamicate World, University of Cologne Cologne Germany

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Suparto Brata (1932–2015) belongs to the pioneers of the Western model of the whodunnit in modern Javanese literature. His early (1962) work Pethité Njai Blorong (The Tail of Nyai Blorong) is a remake of the 1930 whodunnit While the Patient Slept by the US crime novelist Mignon G. Eberhart (1899–1996), which is a murder mystery in true Agatha Christie fashion. This article shows how Suparto Brata did not simply reproduce Eberhart’s detective story in a postcolonial Indonesian setting but thoroughly and successfully reworked it until it hardly resembled its prototype anymore, turning a foreign example into a veritable modernist Javanese kind of Bildungsroman that mirrored 1960s Indonesian societal issues under the shadow of Sukarno’s nationalist policies and catastrophic economic conditions.

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