Exploring the representation of space and belonging in Javanese literature, I will use Suparto Brata’s novel Donyane wong culika (The World of the Untrustworthy, 2004) as a case study. Firstly, I will focus on how literary, linguistic and epistemological features shape and give meaning to Javanese spatiality and on how the references to Javanese customs, literary and cultural traditions, and the Javanese mind in the twentieth century may address and evoke feelings of belonging. Secondly, as the novel features historical events as a kind of backdrop, I will pay attention to what Le Juez and Richardson (2019) call the perceptions of associated loci and on how these loci articulate individual and collective memories of the 1965–66 events, a traumatic period in postcolonial Indonesian history.
This article addresses how some influential Indian Muslim intellectuals conceptualized and imagined the Urdu language as the linguistic offspring and heir of the Persian language and Persianate textual cultures from the late nineteenth century through the early 1950s. As the symbolic and material value of Persian gradually declined in India, select Persianate idioms, genres, and histories were drafted for Urdu’s modernity. This article considers the significance of Persian as it was variously construed as either a burden or a model by Urdu scholars and as either a worthy or unworthy predecessor for Urdu from the 1890s to the 1950s. It traces the shifting textual processes by which three prominent Indian Muslim intellectuals constructed a parent-offspring relationship between Persian and Urdu in response to colonial education reforms, competing national projects, and pan-Islamic intellectual currents. In summary, this article excavates the many uses that Persian served as it was simultaneously erased from and encoded into Urdu’s anticipated futures.
Syed Ahmad Khan (1817–1898) was one of the most prominent Indian Muslim reformists of the nineteenth century and was exceptional for the ways in which he proposed that nature and observations of nature were central to Islam. Like many nineteenth-century reformist narratives, Khan’s ideals on naicar (nature) routinely employed a rhetoric of ‘break,’ ‘renewal,’ and ‘purity’ to imply that Indo-Persian culture was in a state of malaise and in need of rejuvenation. Yet despite this outward denunciation, Khan’s reformist project also ironically reflected many qualities of Persianate Islam that had characterized Indo-Muslim culture before the nineteenth century. This article reconsiders Ahmad Khan’s modernism in light of the Persianate modes that he maintained to point out some of the rhetorical inconsistencies of modernist writing, and the historical lacunae which they create.
The idea of keywords was introduced in Raymond Williams’ seminal Keywords. A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), and has since had a profound influence on research in multiple fields.
This article explores what the idea of keywords might contribute to the study of interlinear translations from Arabic into Javanese. The interlinear translation, which presents an Arabic text with a word-for-word Javanese translation appearing between its lines, is a space where languages, beliefs, and entire histories encounter one another on the page. Taking as my example the 1864 interlinear Babad Maulud (a Javanese translation of the Arabic Maulid Syaraf al-Anām, recited on the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday), I suggest that despite the Javanese translator’s overall literal translation strategy which attempted to duplicate the original, he or she decided to add “Javanese keywords” at particular points in the translation, with such exceptions revealing contemporary Javanese understandings of social etiquette, identity and genealogy.
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.
Contemporary Javanese Islam is often imagined as unusually peaceful, the result of an allegedly conflict-free early history populated by Sufis and saints. Yet not all of Java’s Islamic history is peaceful, and neither were violent historic episodes always marginalized by historians and writers. This article discusses two literary accounts of a murder that happened in the early years of Mataram, the dynasty that facilitated widespread Islamization. Their two authors—Raden Ngabehi Suradipura and Pramoedya Ananta Toer—used the story as a familiar allegory to process their own experiences of violence and oppression in the colonial and postcolonial state. Belying normative visions of a teleology of peace, they present theo-political imaginaries in which violence is accepted in the cultivation of virtue and the creation—or aspirational creation—of a just polity. Through their literary work, these writers expressed their complex positionalities as they made sense of oppressive regimes, the political role of Islamic beliefs, and the normative content of history.
The version of the Sĕrat Cĕnthini that was composed at the royal court of Surakarta in Central Java in 1815 belongs to a genre of narrative poetry that describes the wanderings and adventures of Javanese men and women searching for knowledge, especially mystical enlightenment as described in the literature of Sufi Islam. This essay is a “dialogic” reading of a passage in which Amongraga, a Sufi shaykh and the central protagonist, sets out on a final mystical journey that ends in his death and spectral reunion with his wife, Tambangraras. The analysis demonstrates that the rendering of Amongraga’s journey is a “conversation” that engages older, pre-Islamic religious ideas and poetic conventions with forms of thought that belonged to the greater Islamic world in which the early nineteenth-century Javanese court poets were active participants.
Across the Persianate regions of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Eurasia, the discourse of modernization had a deep, perhaps even dominant aesthetic dimension. Apparently disparate anxieties about oriental indolence, homosexuality and unmanliness, flattery and unmeaning speech, and submission to despots all may be understood as elements of a coherent critique of a single literary mode: taghazzul. Insofar as ghazal was a “royal genre” (Ireneusz Opacki), it provided the formal-aesthetic framing for numerous literary and speech genres, and thus for the social and political order. In case studies from across the Persianate zone, this article considers how writers’ refusal of taghazzul, or its excision from their texts, became a recognizable gesture of disaffiliation from the Persianate. In the resulting reordering of the literary field, taghazzul took on new functions in relation to the Western category of lyric.