Some Changes to the List

I’m always making changes to my great master list, and I thought perhaps you guys might be interested in an update. First, a fellow blogger suggested Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound for my Indonesian list. I love it (though I did find it problematic in some ways, which I will write about when I get to that blog post) and it made me worried that my methodology was unsound, since I had read a bunch of not-very-good Indonesian books, and had somehow missed that one. Kurniawan was on the Booker International longlist for another work, Man Tiger, so I thought perhaps adding all Booker nominees to my list would be a good start. I am also increasingly concerned about gender parity, so I’ve been trying to adjust my lists a little to make sure I have, wherever possible, equal numbers of male and female authors. Additions and subtractions are detailed below. Continue reading

Excerpt from “The Weaverbirds”

Fact was, there was my mother’s skin. She was fair, that’s true, but her skin had a tawny hue, very much like the color of the lansat fruit, held up as the model for the perfect “native” complexion. That was offered as one proof that Mama wasn’t pure-blooded Dutch. The color of real Dutch people is different, a splotchy red color like that of a piglet. So, actually, the comments of my friends from the garrison made me feel proud. Who wanted to be Dutch anyway when the life of a native army brat was a million times more interesting? Who wanted to be a Dutch boy, forced to dress so very neatly with a spanking white shirt and shoes and who had to remember hundreds of little points of politeness which made you end up feeling no better than a marmot in a cage?

-Y.B. Mangunwijaya, The Weaverbirds, 1981

Excerpt from “Saman”

When I was nine I was not a virgin. People didn’t consider a girl who didn’t yet have breasts to be a virgin. But there was something I was keeping secret from my parents:

When they got wind of the fact that I was secretly meeting an ogre, my mother revealed a big secret: that I was actually made of porcelain. Statues, plates and cups made from porcelain come in hues of blue, light green, even brown. But they mustn’t be allowed to crack, because if they do they will be thrown on to the rubbish dump or used as tombstone ornaments. My mother said I would never crack as long as I kept my virginity. I was taken aback: how could I preserve something I didn’t yet have?
Continue reading

Excerpt from “Max Havelaar”

I admit, I have not been here long. But I trust that the question asked one day will be what I did, and whether I did it well, not whether I did it in too short a time. To me, any time is too long when it is marked by extortion and oppression, and on me every second would weigh heavy which, owing to my negligence, my dereliction of duty, my ‘spirit of compromise,’ had been spent in misery by others.

Multatuli, Max Havelaar, or the Coffee
Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company