Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Rooms Out Back" by Nenden Lillis Aisyah.-An Indonesian Short Story

"Rooms Out Back" by Nenden Lillis Aisyah. (2009, 6 pages translated from Indonesian by John McGlynn)

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on one the the blogs I admire, Novroz' Favorite Things indicating that Novroz was going to do a series of special posts on her blog honoring Indonesia's day of independence from colonial domination, celebrated on August 17.   I then somehow decided to Google "independence day world wide" and found a whole list of days and countries.    I noticed also that the independence day of  Malaysia will be observed at the end of August.    I wanted to honor these two South East Asia countries-both just a few hours from my home in Manila by posting on some short stories by Indonesia writers and then Malaysian.    I think I will do a total of five posts on Indonesian short stories.   I have decided to do separate posts on each writer so as to give a bit more change to spotlight the writers and also to allow a Google search  on some of these not yet well know writers to find at least my post.

So far I have read and posted on three short stories by Indonesian women writers in honor of Indonesian Independence Day, observed August 17th.    (This link will take you to my first three articles.)

Nenden Lillis Aisyah is from Malangbong-Garut in East Java.   She is a lecturer in eduction and literature at the Indonesian Education University.   She is a well known poet and short story writer whose works have been widely anthologized.   She is a frequent speaker at literary events both in Indonesia and Europe.   

The narrator and central character of "Rooms Out Back" is a young married woman working on  a thesis she must complete for an advanced degree she needs to advance herself in teaching.    Her husband is a free lance journalist.   They are both children of at least the middle class.    They have chosen in the way young people sometimes do to live among people poorer than they grew up around in order to save rent.    The narrator is a keen observer of what goes on around her.    The apartments provide little privacy and she begins to observe the martial abuse the women around her accept as normal with the attitude "all men are the same".  

Teh Nining's husband often beats her, even for the tiniest of reasons, a habit that apparently worsened considerably after he was let go from the hotel where he worked.
What's the connection, I thought.
"Then why did you get divorced?" I was becoming curious.
Umi took the pestle that I was holding and began to grind the spices that I had prepared in a mortar. I pushed an ashtray toward her and she set her cigarette down.
"Well, you know… Men everywhere are all the same!" She stopped grinding momentarily to take another drag from her cigarette.
At one point the narrator begins to fear that one of the neighboring women is after her husband, a woman who she rationally admits has more surface appeal than she does.    The woman is also a near exotic figure to the narrator given the differences in the social levels of their raising.   "Rooms Out Back" has found a very clever way to let us look at life among the relative poor.     The story has an almost voyeuristic  feel to it.    We also know, or think we do, the narrator and her husband will be gone from the neighborhood soon enough and nothing will change there.   In this story as in the other women appear near powerless to stop abuse.   I enjoyed this well done story and endorse it fully.

I will post on another story by an Indonesian woman writer soon, thus  concluding a series of five posts.

"Rooms Out Back can be read online HERE

Mel u

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