Sunday, March 20, 2022

Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington) by Budi Darma


đź”·️ Budi Darma is one of Indonesia's prominent modern writers. He graduated with an MA from Indiana University Bloomington in 1976. His experience and observation during his college days are the inspiration of this collection of seven short stories, titled Orang-Orang Bloomington, or People from Bloomington in English. Now Penguin Classics is translating this book in English, and it is due to publication in April.

đź”·️ Orang-Orang Bloomington is a realist book, tinged with absurdism in several of the stories. Though all of the stories are told from an anonymous narrator's point of view, it is clear that each has its own narrator (or at least there are more than one narrator). Nevertheless, they seem to have some similarities in personal character; they are all inquisitive and lonely. Indeed, loneliness seems to be the single theme that connect all the stories.



đź”·️ First story: The Anonymous Old Man (Pak Tua Tanpa Nama) sets this tone for all the rest. Residents in the houses and apartments are mostly individualists who lack touch of human compassion; they mind (too much) their own businesses, full of cold suspicion and prejudice, and some, even, have violent temperament.

đź”·️ The narrators aren't perfect either. The one in Joshua Karabish, for example, shamefully claimed his dead friend's poems as his. Another in Keluarga M (M Family) cowardly attacked a small boy in burst of rage after his car was scratched at the parking lot. But the worst is probably the narrator in Orez - it's way too cruel for me, though the one in Ny Eberhart (Mrs. Elberhart) is no less heartless either - bullying an old woman?! Though in the end they realized their mistakes and perhaps felt sorry, it's only a silent proof that the society of Bloomington (which represent our own modern society) aren't okay - there's a latent hatred and evil hidden beneath our struggles in life.

đź”·️ My favorite of all is the first story. The last two or three stories are too absurd for my taste, and the last one - I felt it inconclusive. I really admire the crude beauty and poignancy in Budi Darma's writing (he reminds me of John Steinbeck - but Steinbeck's is way more eloquent), but not his absurdism side.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

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