“Sebab rancangan-Ku bukanlah rancanganmu, dan jalanmu bukanlah jalan-Ku, demikianlah Firman TUHAN. Seperti tingginya langit dari bumi, demikianlah tingginya jalan-Ku dari jalanmu dan rancangan-Ku dari rancanganmu.”
Siapakah dari umat manusia yang mengetahui rencana Tuhan, dan memahami rancangan-rancangan-Nya? Ketika sesuatu yang buruk terjadi, bukankah kita bertanya, “Mengapa?” “Mengapa hal ini terjadi?” “Mengapa hal itu menimpa kami?”, atau “Mengapa hal ini menimpa mereka?”
Pertanyaan yang sama terpatri di benak Brother Juniper, seorang biarawan Fransiskan, setelah peristiwa putusnya jembatan gantung San Luis Rey di Peru yang terkenal. Adapun jembatan gantung yang menghubungkan kota Lima dan Cuzco tersebut ditenun oleh peradaban suku Inca dari abad yang telah berlalu, dan masih dilewati ratusan orang setiap harinya, sampai hari nahas itu tiba.
Pada siang hari, tanggal 20 Juli 1714, jembatan gantung San Luis Rey putus dan melemparkan lima orang ke dalam jurang di bawahnya. Peristiwa ini menggugah masyarakat Lima begitu rupa dan mengusik hati Brother Juniper, sehingga akhirnya ia memutuskan untuk mengadakan suatu “penelitian”, untuk menyelidiki kehidupan kelima orang korban. Ia berusaha menemukan jawaban mengapa Tuhan memilih kelima orang tersebut, untuk menunjukkan demostrasi kebijaksanaan-Nya, pada hari itu.
“Why did this happen to those five? If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.”
Selama enam tahun Brother Juniper mengetuk semua pintu di Lima, mengajukan ribuan pertanyaan, dan mencatat di buku catatannya semua fakta, kecil dan besar, penting maupun kurang penting, terkait kelima orang korban San Luis Rey, untuk membuktikan bahwa kelima nyawa yang hilang tersebut sesungguhnya adalah satu kesatuan yang utuh. Penelitian ini membawanya menguak lembar demi lembar kehidupan Dona Maria, La Marquesa de Montemayor, seorang wanita bangsawan yang tidak dicintai oleh putrinya semata wayang; Pepita, gadis muda cerdas pelayan sang Marquesa; Camila Perichole, seorang aktris luar biasa cantik yang dikagumi oleh seantero Peru; Paman Pio, lelaki paruh baya yang merupakan pelatih sekaligus “ayah” La Perichole; dan pemuda kembar yatim piatu Manuel dan Esteban, yang memiliki kisah hidup muram mereka sendiri.
Setiap dari mereka mencintai dan berjuang untuk hidup dengan cara masing-masing; hampir setiap detail dari kehidupan mereka dikumpulkan oleh Brother Juniper dengan harapan samar bahwa entah bagaimana detail-detail tersebut akan memunculkan diri begitu rupa dan membuka tabir rahasia lima nyawa yang direnggut. Apakah Brother Juniper akan menemukan jawaban dari pertanyaan yang selama ini menghantui dirinya, dan mungkin juga hampir setiap orang di muka bumi ini?
Kekuatan utama novel pendek ini adalah gaya penulisan Thornton Wilder yang indah. Sebenarnya saya terlebih dahulu mengetahui versi film dari novel ini, secara tidak sengaja menemukan VCDnya beberapa tahun yang lalu. Versi film tahun 2004 dibintangi antara lain Gabriel Byrne sebagai Brother Juniper, Kathy Bates sebagai Marquesa de Montemayor, Harvey Keitel sebagai Uncle Pio, dan Robert De Niro sebagai Archbishop of Peru; dan menurut saya merupakan adaptasi yang cukup bagus. Jika dulu, saat pertama selesai menonton filmnya, saya akan duduk diam termenung beberapa saat, sekarang lebih lagi saat saya menyelesaikan bukunya. Alih-alih memberikan jawaban, buku ini mengajak pembaca untuk merenung. Kesimpulan yang saya ambil dalam hati mengenai buku ini adalah: kita mungkin tidak mengetahui rahasia Tuhan, mengapa Ia berbuat begini dan begitu. Namun satu hal yang mutlak adalah; ia menganugerahi masing-masing kita dengan cinta. Inilah hal yang terpenting, di atas segalanya.
“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love.
There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.“
I’ve just read a wonderful book called “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” a few weeks...moreSurabaya, Indonesia, June 18th, 2012
I’ve just read a wonderful book called “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” a few weeks ago, and I thought that I’d write a personal letter to you recommending it.
What first comes to your mind when you hear “World War II”? War must mean blood, chaos, ruthlessness, hope running out; don’t you think? Well, this book was set at the end of the World War II. The main character was Juliet Ashton, a writer for the English weekly Spectator under the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff. With her humorous writings Juliet brought the minds of people away from the war for a while. Juliet might have been famous for her Izzy Bickerstaff columns, but she had much deeper passion when it comes to literature. She also wrote a biography of Anne Brontë, which was sold poorly. When she was looking for a subject for her next book, she was accidentally corresponding with Dawsey Adams from the Guernsey Island, who told her about the book society he’s been involved in, how was the society accidentally formed during the German occupation, and how books changed the bitter lives of its members during wartime. Driven by curiosity, Juliet asked Dawsey if she could correspond to other members of the society, and BAM! Her wish was granted. She wrote and received long letters from almost all of the members, only to realize that she fell in love with them and she longed to read more from them. I won’t spoil much plot of the book, but you will find surprises as you turn the pages, surprises that would make you smile long after you finished it. I particularly liked the character Juliet, a woman who would dump a guy because he didn’t share her love for books (whoops!). Guernsey was written by Mary Ann Shaffer and continued by her niece, Annie Barrows.
Have you ever hear about Guernsey Island before? Yes, Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables during his period of exile in Guernsey. It is a British Crown dependency in the Channel Islands off the coast of Normandy. I attached a photo of the beautiful little island if you’re curious.
Back to the book, it was written in epistolary method (told in series of letters). It was warm and sweet, witty and romantic, you’ll fall in love with the characters (well, not all, thankfully), and it tells a lot about the love for literature. Anybody who loves books and literature should read this book. But mind you, men might not enjoy this book. It was like chick lit set in the 1940s era, written especially for book lovers. By page 11 I found one of my favorite lines of the book:
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”
And in page 16:
“I love seeing the bookshops and meeting the booksellers—booksellers really are a special breed. No one in their right mind would take up clerking in a bookstore for the salary, and no one in his right mind would want to own one—the margin of profit is too small. So, it has to be a love of readers and reading that makes them do it—along with first dibs on the new books.”
And this one line in page 56 reminds me so much of the Indonesian Book Bloggers (BBI) community I’m involved in:
“We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another.”
Ain’t that sweet? :D
So, my dear friend, if you are curious much after reading my letter, I suggest you grab a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as soon as possible. And do you know, the book is filming at the time being with Kate Winslet as Juliet Ashton! When you have read the book, if you loved it, maybe we can watch the movie together. See you when it comes!
“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
***A SMALL TRUTH***
I am haunted by this book.
Sit still, children. Death has a story to tell. It is about the book thief, who was but a fourteen year-old skinny German girl living in Nazi Germany, whose name was Liesel Meminger. The book thief first conducted her felony when she was nine, the day her little brother was buried in the snow. She, along with her mother and little brother, travelled down to Munich where foster parents would soon take over the care of the children. Or as we shall put it after Liesel’s brother death; only one child. Soon Liesel would separate from her mother and proceed to Himmel Street in Molching, and became foster daughter of Hans and Rosa Hubermann. What an unlikely couple the Hubermanns were, since Hans was the accordion-playing, fatherly-loving figure that Liesel would learn to love dearly soon, and Rosa was a lady rich with words (in which I mean swearing) and she liked to give Liesel a good watschen (which is a slap to one’s bottom). Liesel then learned to read with her beloved foster father, and continued book thievery; from Nazi book-burnings, from the mayor’s wife library and so on. One of her treasured books was The Standover Man, a gift from an unexpected guest for the Hubermanns who came one night, Max Vandenburg. Max was a Jewish fist fighter whose father once fought alongside Hans on World War I. He sought help from the Hubermanns that they would hide him in their house. They paid him the service, and Max then became an important part of the Hubermann family. Max’s presence seemed to bind everyone closer and Liesel became his best friend when he did not even dare to imagine having one. The story then takes readers to witness the struggles the Hubermanns were having for hiding a Jew, and how the residents of Molching dealt with bomb-droppings on their homes, and how Liesel’s love for books helped them endure the sufferings because of war. Clearly, an end awaits all of them, Jew or not Jew. An end where lies an enormous possibility that Death is already waiting.
”They watched the Jews come down the road like a catalog of colors. That wasn’t how the book thief described them, but I can tell you that that’s exactly what they were, for many of them would die. They would each greet me like their last true friend, with bones like smoke and their souls trailing behind.”
As the main character, Liesel was nothing special. What made her special is the relationship that grew between her and other characters: with Hans Hubermann, with Max, with her ‘boyfriend’; the lemon-haired Rudy Steiner, with the mayor’s wife, and even with Rosa Hubermann, who we would later realize that she could love as much as any other characters in the book.
I loved Markus Zusak’s writing style in this book tremendously, despite of some people who call it abnormal, especially for his style of personifying things or figurative language. For me, it’s original and captivating. Dark and gloomy as it is, the author kept the book true and honest, without any unnecessary sweetness. The author’s imagination in making Death the narrator is brilliant. And it made me think, could it be that Death is not as evil as we all think? He’s just doing his job, right?
This book is one of the very few books that can actually make me cry. I’m more of a visual person who cries more easily when seeing an emotional scene, rather than reading one. Yes, I cried at the end of the book. It wasn’t until I reached the last 100 pages that I decided that this book deserves my perfect rating. I think the author kept his best for last. Therefore, five stars.
“It’s probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler’s reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn’t have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.”