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Saturday April 29th 2017

A Short Account of Bodé’s Short Stories

Hawé Setiawan

Literature | Saturday, 18 February 2012 | sundanesecorner.org

Istri tanpa Clurit ‘A Wife without Knife’ is a short story anthology by West Javanese author Bodé Riswandi. (In Allan M Stevens & Schmidgall-Tellings’ A Comprehensive Indonesian-English Dictionary the word clurit is defined as ‘a small Madurese sickle shaped knife.’) Published for the first time by Bandung-based Ultimus early last month, this book of just 96 pages compiles ten (short) short stories. It marks Bode’s debut in prose writing. One of the prolific young writers living and working in Tasikmalaya, a city in eastern region of the province, Bodé has previously published his first collection of poems entitled Mendaki Kantung Matamu ‘Climbing Your Eye Bags’ (2010).

The front and back cover of Bodé Riswandi's short story anthology (Photograph: Ultimus)

A foreword from a literary professor, an afterword from a well-known novelist, and some endorsements from fellow writers as well, seem to have encouraged Bodé in publishing his work. What the literary circle says is one thing, however, and what the writer composes is another. The stories themselves are undoubtedly the most important thing to be appreciated by the readers. General readers must have their own way to freely taste and judge the work. Bodé, who will launch and discuss the book at Gedung Indonesia Menggugat in Bandung this afternoon, is starting his literary career.

Generally speaking, Bodé’s stories tend to reflect the gloomy sides of daily life. They tells about several regrettable things, from a brilliant and celebrated young professor who suddenly suffered from a stroke and witnessed his wife’s infidelity to a forgotten and poor hero in his old age who happened to watch a television programme that showed how his fellow ex-combatants were awarded and celebrated by a president in the Independence Day. In his short introduction to this book, Bodé says that his stories were inspired by, among others, what people said to him about their life in several unplanned encounters and what the media reported about social inequalities in his home country.

His realism sometime chooses satirical forms, in which he can freely comment —or perhaps mock— on the subject matter of his story, such as the one that tells about rich people who compete each other in enjoying dog lifestyle in their neighbourhood. Sometime he even tries to go beyond realism by telling a sort of fantastic stories like the one that tells about a newborn baby that ripped its mother’s vagina by a sickle shaped knife—from which this book is entitled.

Apart from their social concerns and literary inclinations, which are certainly remarkable, there are unfortunately some limitations in their elements of style. We still find here some misspellings such as dicancel (a sort of English interference in Indonesian, which is derived from the word cancelled), faramedical (it should be paramedical), and some others. There are also some sorts of Sundanese interference in their sentence structures such as ‘seseorang yang duduknya berdampingan dengan Amarta Marus’ (the possessive pronoun nya can be removed from the structure in order to correctly describe ‘someone that was sitting next to Amarta Marus’).

In the story entitled ‘Istri tanpa Clurit’, which novelist Ahmad Tohari prises as a sangat kuat ‘very strong’ story, we find an inconsistent point of view. The narrator of this story is a husband who is expecting the birth of his child, telling his story from the singular first person’s point of view. In one of its sequence, however, when the man was leaving his wife at home to look for a midwife somewhere out there, we find this quotation: ‘“Lama benar lelaki itu pergi. Ke mana ia?” tanya calon anakku.’ (‘“So long that man is going out there. Where on earth is he going?’ asked my nearly-born child.)

Nevertheless, we hope Bodé will always try hard to develop his literary craftsmanship for the sake of his future achievements.***




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