Traveljunkieindonesia.com – This novel was published in 2009 by Pink Ink, after getting rejected by a much more established Indonesian publishing company. Actually, the latter had agreed to publish it, on the condition that I’d let them edit out some vulgar parts. I said no. The book had taken me about four years to research and write, and I’m too proud of it to let anyone make any changes.
Four years later, the company that actually went on to publish this piece of fiction hasn’t paid me a penny. And since the publication law in this country is too messed up, I don’t feel like doing anything about it. I don’t care. I just want readers. As many of them as possible. And this blog seems like a perfect medium to get them.
The novel is titled Nel. As Indonesian movie director Lucky Kuswandi put it, it is an explosive ghost story about the impossibility of desire. The novel is loaded with lost, isolated outcasts fighting for their carnal needs against a repressive, violently religious society. It is spellbindingly written, seamlessly shifting from the real to the mystical, juxtaposing poetic, homoerotic romance with a primitive, militaristic landscape. The novel believes that Eros and cultural values are constantly at war, because of our society’s glorification of Masculinity.
However, Nel is in Indonesian — most of it, at least. For those who are not proficient in the language, I will give you a glimpse of what it’s about by providing an excerpt that has been translated into English below. A review in English is also available in this Jakarta Globe article titled Tender Novel ‘Nel’ Breaks the Rules. Finally, here is the link for you to download Nel for free, and here is the excerpt:
Have you ever heard of this story? Once upon a time, there was a huta, or hamlet, by a forest, located not so far from a river. The houses in this hamlet were built around the hau tadatada, a gigantic thorny tree that bore sweet fruits. No one dared climb that tree. People would only collect the fruits that had fallen on the ground. They said ghosts lived inside its trunk and branches. When the tree died and began to shed its leaves, nobody felled it. And so the roots became rotten and inside the hollow arteries a colony of termites built their kingdom. A year passed. The hamlet was wrapped in sleep and the wind from the hills blew violently when the tree fell on tens of houses, exacting tens of souls.
And the story starts.
On that gloomy night, two young men were fishing on the upper course of the river. They returned to find that half of the hamlet was destroyed. Their houses, which used to stand side by side, were now flattened. During the burial ceremony the next day, they performed the tortor dance in front of the corpses. While crying in profound silence, realizing that they were now orphans, they made a vow to look after one another. They needed not say it, because the friendship that had developed from early on—since they were only two little boys who played swing in the space beneath their houses’ floors—made it clear. Were there any other options? They began a new life by building a house that they later occupied together.
When asked who they would like to marry, the hamlet girls’ minds would quickly go to the orphaned men of different looks. The first one was taller and brawnier, his skin dark like the shells of para nuts, and was an excellent runner. The second was handsome, his body slender and his skin clean like candlenut flesh. But they were both quiet. They preferred hunting, fishing or cultivating their farm to making passes at the boru-boru—the girls, who were disappointed. Both men did not show any indication that they were ready to marry, although they were old enough to pick the most beautiful girls to be their wives.
Rumors spread. The inang, or mothers, who indulged in sharing stories through their back windows suspected their manhood, and a man of their age once asked what they usually did when their sacks became swollen with desire. But they just furrowed their forehead and left laughing. The hamlet people quietly agreed that one day their worry would manifest—that when their desire were boiling, they would conduct a dirty deed. Were there any other options when they were both inseparable? And after the sin was carried out, they though, they would be doomed, either in the trial of the elders or because of the wrath of the debata—the gods.
What they did not know, the two young men never dared rub skin when they were burnt with desire.
More information, visit bekabuluh.com.
Happy Sustainable Travels!