Indonesian Historical Fiction: Translating Ashadi Siregar’s Rejection: A Sumatran Odyssey
Department of Comparative Literature
Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Location: Online, via Zoom
Sponsor: Harvard University Asia Center
To translate is to carry writing over into a new readership. Translating Indonesian writer Ashadi Siregar’s novel Menolak Ayah (2018) into English with the title Rejection: A Sumatran Odyssey, brings the worlds of Batak custom and Indonesian history to a potential global English-language audience. A family epic set in the mid 20th century, the novel’s historical backdrop includes the turbulent years from the end of the Dutch colonial period, the Japanese occupation during WW II, the revolutionary fight to secure the Indonesian republic’s independence, regional rebellion against that republic in the late 1950s, and political tensions of the early 1960s. The novel gives a nuanced picture of the complex issues facing Indonesia in its early years of independence, but the story is above all a personal one of a young Batak man from North Sumatra reassessing his family, his past, his sexuality, his birthplace, the nation he is now part of, and survival in the new world. The rich writing of the novel moves fluidly through various styles, from gripping accounts of the desperate life of rebels in North Sumatra, magical realism of a journey through the primeval Sumatran jungle, to the gritty realities of the Jakarta underworld; mirroring, perhaps, the fluctuating idealism, pragmatism and disillusionment of post colonial nationhood.
Via Zoom; registration required at https://bit.ly/HVDSEALINDSAY