Grace Tjan's Reviews > Gadis Pantai

Gadis Pantai by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
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Jul 12, 09

bookshelves: bahasa-indonesia, contemporary-fiction, indonesia
Read in July, 2009

"Her skin was fair. Her body was slender. Every day her back was burdened with a large basket wrapped up in a cloth sling. She came to the nobles' homes. Bought things, clothes, empty bottles, junks. Until her basket was filled to the brim. Only then would she sell them at the market.

Her husband was a failed farmer, a failed chicken soup peddler, was once a village official, also a failed one. Therefore every day she kept walking, from house to house and to the market. With the big basket on her back. Ever independent. "


Unfortunately, one can only wonder how the protagonist of this story, the Girl from the Coast, evolved from a 16-year old discarded 'practice wife' to an old, fiercely independent rag-and-bone woman --- the author's own grandmother. The novel that we now know as The Girl From the Coast is only the first part of a trilogy. The last two books were destroyed by the New Order authorities when the author was in prison. Which proves that long after the colonial period depicted in this novel was over, the spirit of the authoritarian, callous 'Bendoro' still thrived in independent Indonesia.

The Girl from the Coast is a powerful, searing indictment of the corrupt, hypocritical Javanese ruling elite during the colonial era. The Girl ( who is known only by that name throughout the novel) is uprooted from her carefree life as a 14-year old daughter of a poor fishing family to become a 'practice wife' for a rich Javanese nobleman, the Bendoro. She soon finds out that her body and soul exist only for her master's pleasure, and that she can be discarded any time he tires of her. Separated from her newborn baby after the Bendoro got rid of her, she realizes that she can no longer fit into the life in her fishing village, and decides to chart her own independent course in life. Like Nyai Ontosoroh in Pramoedya's Buru Quartet, The Girl is the embodiment of the author's idealization of the strong, self-contained Javanese woman who resisted their various opressors with uncommon valor.

It is a pity that we can only know the beginning of her story.

Note : the quotation from the preface is in my own translation from Bahasa Indonesia. I have not read the translated English version, but judging from the preview at Amazon, it seems that the preface is not included in it.
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Reading Progress

07/10/2009 page 175
64.34% "So sad yet somehow inspiring."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sherien (new)

Sherien I've never read any Pramoedya...bahasanya gmn? susah?


Grace Tjan Nggak juga sih. Gw sendiri baru baca Buru Quartet & Gadis Pantai, tapi karya Pramoedya memang bagus --- pantas deh dapat nominasi Nobel.


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