Folklor Betawi & Bukan 350 tahun dijajah – Tuesday Book Review

Day two of challenge updating everyday for 1 week.

These two are books I bought during my visit in March. I really like the Folklore Betawi and I am struggling to read the other one.

Because they say it is better to end on a high,I shall start with the difficult reading.

Bukan 350 tahun dijajah

by GJ Resink translated by Dita P Prameswari

Now, generally you could say I love reading academic books about culture and history, I found it more trustworthy. But on the other hand whatever a piece of writing is about, it needs to be easily read and understood. Bukan 350 tahun dijajah, has not been well written. The language used not only too academical, but also one of those works that seems to intentionally use difficult words to sound more educated or more clever than it needs to. I needed to read some parts of it twice to understand what it is trying to say. The title sounds interesting, translated to English: [Indonesia] was not colonialised for 350 years. I wanted to read the arguments of why was it not, because it contradicts what I (and I’m sure many other Indonesian) have learnt growing up. It turns out however, the book was a translation from English. Guess what the original title was..Indonesia’s History between the myths: essays in legal history and historical theory. Less interesting right?

Book - Bukan 350 tahun dijajah- Gj Resink

Maybe the original work is better, maybe I am just not learned enough to read it.

Here is an excerpt:

Mengenai minat orang asing yang tidak semuanya benar- benar tidak tertarik secara alami, bisa dirangkum di belakang minat international dan ekstra nasional dari begitu banyak penulis non-Indonesia terhadap sejarah Indonesia.

translates to:

About foreigners’ interest which is not entirely all naturally uninterested, could be sumarised in international and extra national interest(note: I’m not sure what extra national mean) from many non-Indonesian writer of Indonesian History.

This sentence was so hard to re-translate because it is too convulated, to many words to ultimately say (I think): The interest of non-indonesian writers of Indonesia’s history can be sumarised to two types: International and extra national.

Maybe I am wrong, do tell me what you think it meant. I also find the translation a bit annoying and somewhat lazy, instead of translating to Indonesian it tends to turn English words to sound a bit Indonesian. Like translating Brilliant to Brilian … what? There are Indonesian words that can be used for this, such as memikat or cemerlang or mengagumkan.

If you have read it and found it interesting, can you tell me the main unknown facts or the arguments that the book is trying to say? 🙂

Folklor Betawi- Betawi Life and Culture

Abdul Chaer

This book is really good, a compendium of Betawi cultural tradition. I wish there is a book like this for every other cultures in Indonesia, as they are so varied.

It is a really interesting book, it describes the Betawi traditions and culture through the life cycle from birth to death, it also tells you tradtional games, stories, even poetry and other Betawi art.

Growing up in Indonesia, specially in Jakarta people always ask you where do you come from, when they ask, it really meant what etnic group does your parents belong to. They have stereotypes for people who comes from different parts of the country, I really hated this. Because I was born and raised in Jakarta to a very modern parents, I was never brought up in the traditions or never really learnt other languages beside Indonesian, so I always said that I am a Betawi.

I have always been intrigued by the culture of this ethnic group. As a group of people native to Jakarta, they have given up a lot of their lands, dispersed and moved aside for people who are migrating from other parts of Indonesia. So their culture is somewhat endangered.

Folklor Betawi - Abdul Chaer

What I love about Betawi people and culture is they are very humorous. Here is an excerpt from the book, the part where they talk about poetic culture:

Indung-indung Kepale Lindung
Ujan Di sono disini mendung
Anak siapa pake kerudung
Mate melirik kaki kesandung

It can’t be translated literally, it is just saying that when taking a glance at a girl with a veil, they tripped.

A must read for people who are interested in the culture. I might talk about some of the product of the culture in other posts.