Welcome back in Book and Film Review where we will review Indonesian books and films.
We will review an Indonesian novel entitled "Laut Bercerita" or in English "Laut Storytelling" written by Leila S. Chudori. Leila has been well-known for her short stories, novels, and TV drama scripts. She began her career in literature since she was young. Most of her works are about honesty, belief, determination, principle, and sacrifice. Leila had a scholarship in Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (United World Colleges) in Victoria, Canada. In Canada, she graduated from Political Science and Comparative Development Studies at Trent University.
Since 1989, Leila has been a journalist of Tempo news magazine. The early works of Leila had been written when she was 12 and were published in Si Kuncung, Kawanku, and Hai. In 2009, Leila S. Chudori launched her newest anthology entitled "9 dari Nadira" which was seen by literature critics as a novel and a book entitled "Malam terakhir" by Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia publisher, which was said by Kompas daily as "the return of Indonesian literature's golden child". Later in December 2011, Leila was invited to the Asia Pacific Literary Symposium in Perth; Winternachten Literary Festival by Writers Unlimited in The Hague in 2012; and Leila Chudori Soiree Literature Event held by Indonesia-France Association in Paris also in 2012.
The novel "Laut Bercerita" is about a family who lost, friends who feel empty, a group who favors torture and betrayal, some families who look for the graves of their children, and about an eternal love. This book is also telling about how some students who were involved in the reformation vanished one by one.
In an evening, at a flat in Jakarta, a student named Biru Laut was arrested by four unknown men. Along with Daniel Tumbuan, Sunu Dyantoro, and Alex Perazon, he was brought to an unknown place. For months, they were locked up, interrogated, hit, kicked, hanged, and electrocuted so that they would answer one important question: who initiated the movement of activists and students at that time.
The family of Arya Wibisono, as usual, on Sunday evening cooked together, making the favorite food of Biru Laut. The father will put one plate for him, one for the mother, one for Biru Laut, and one for the youngest Asmara Jati. They sit and wait. But, Biru Laut never comes home.
Asmara Jati along with Missing Persons Commission led by Awin Pradana tried to look for their lost tracks while recording and studying the testimony of the survivors. Anjani - Laut's girlfriend, the parents, and the wives of the missing activists demanded the answer about their missing families. Meanwhile, Biru Laut from the silent sea bottom told the world a story, about what happened to him and his friends.
Through "Laut Bercerita", Leila, who is also a journalist, tried to arrange the whole events happening in Indonesia during the transition year in 1998. Although Leila changed the characters' names, but most part of the plot was based on the past events.
As the title, "Laut Bercerita" is about Laut storytelling. The main character is Biru Laut, an English literature student in Yogyakarta joined Winatra, a student organization for poor people such as labors and farmers. With all government-opposing actions, Laut and his friends in Winatara and Wirasena organization must live in the shadows. More overly when Winatra was seen as riot mastermind, such as the Dark Saturday - a riot at Indonesian Democratic Party Central Board in Jakarta. In addition, the government publicly listed the activists of Winatra and Wirasena as wanted people.
The story of "Biru Laut" is a fiction, but living in pursuit feels so real. In the chapter of Biru Laut, we were told about struggle and betrayal. But, readers' emotion peaked in Asmara Jati chapter, which was about loss and denial. It shows how the parents of Biru Laut are still in a "cocoon" they made, denying that their son was dead by preparing a plate for Laut during lunch and dinner. Also, it was about how Asmara Jati -the sister tried to get her parents out of the cocoon and face the reality, that Laut is gone and will never return.
Laut is the main character that was depicted realistically by Leila. The book has also been adapted to short films about the victim families of 98 tragedy. Leila cannot tell the whole events of the New Order, but by writing the story of Biru Laut, Leila successfully depicted what happened and the feelings, especially the feelings of the grieving families, with a little spices of friendship, love, and betrayal. Laut lived, and he vanished and died not in simple way. "Laut Bercerita" is a very good history-based book about the dark politics in Indonesia at that time.