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(Saman #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  6,037 ratings  ·  602 reviews
Saman is a story filtered through the lives of its feisty female protagonists and the enigmatic “hero” Saman. It is at once an exposé of the oppression of plantation workers in South Sumatra, a lyrical quest to understand the place of religion and spirituality in contemporary lives, a playful exploration of female sexuality and a story about love in all its guises, while ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published 2001 by KPG (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,037 ratings  ·  602 reviews

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Nov 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: indonesia
The story of an Indonesian activist told by a young female Javanese expat living in NYC and working for a human rights NGO. The writing is evocative, even sensual at times, and despite some rough edges it manages to paint a very convincing and fairly tragic picture of poor rural Indonesian communities being exploited and killed under the nose of a numb, corrupt state.

Against this setting, Saman, a former priest, stands up for a small community being violently pressured to sign over their lands
Bronwyn Mauldin
Jul 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indie
Saman is the story of how a Catholic priest in the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, becomes a human rights activist called "Saman." Author, journalist Ayu Utami, turns the familiar tale of the crusader for justice on its head by folding Saman's story into that of a group of young women who knew him when they were school girls and he a newly-ordained priest.

Laila is the good girl who always falls for men she cannot have. Shakuntala the dancer who breaks her name in two for an
Missy J
Since I read an article about the author Ayu Utami a few years back, I have wanted to read one of her books for a long time already. She struck me as a very brave and forward-thinking female author in a country dominated by patriarchy. Earlier this year, I finally managed to buy a copy of Saman, even in its original language! Yay! Furthermore, it was the perfect length for me (just over 200 pages).

Well, what can I say now. I think I understand why this book mostly got average ratings. It
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everybody
The first book by an indonesian writer I have ever read.
I have to admit that I'm still a bit puzzled about the meaning and the symbols in it, but as I kept thinking about it and read more about the reactions this book provoced, I realized that it's a very brave book. Sexuality, religious conflicts, the effects the Transmigrasi policy in the 70s, friendship, love, everything is brought up here. It is both, the story of the main characters of the book and their moving fates and a reflection about
nia pranatio
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Feminism Rocks
Politics Sucks
Love is something personal
Rara Rizal
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: indo-lit
Read this as part of my book club assignment. Did not like the book enough to write a serious review.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Saman, I have aloerotism. I have sex with my husband, but it’s you I am imagining. He’s been asking why I so often want the lights out. It’s because I’m imagining your face, your body.

Yasmin, I am jealous. You are having sex, I’m not. You’re husband is surely a better lover than I am? I come too fast. But I suppose if I were to get you pregnant, it would mean I am efficient – capable of getting a task done in a short time.


Yasmin, Climax! That’s what makes it different. Be frank with me, you
Rick Brose
Some translations can feel blocky and stagnant. The translation of Saman retains a flowing, poetic feel to it throughout the book. The novel is an intriguing narrative with complex characters and deep backgrounds. The Indonesian culture and history that is covered within the pages is captivating. It is not a book with a definitive beginning, middle, and end. That did not bother me though. I enjoyed digging into the lives, choices, and motivations of the characters presented.
Shelley Rose
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
3 stars for the first 100 pages; 1 star for most everything after that!

There are basically two different stories going on in this book. The first story is centered around Saman, a Catholic priest turned plantation worker rights activist. I really enjoyed his storyline and wish Utami had developed it even further. In this portion of the book, Utami highlights conditions in “transmigration” communities and the heavy hand of oil, rubber, and palm oil industries in Indonesia. We also see Saman
May 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read this book to fulfill the "#Own voices/Oceania" task for Read Harder. While I really enjoyed how in-depth the story of Saman and the plantation workers was, I was left feeling like I was missing something. We didn't get a wrap-up to most of the stories that I thought were central to the plot (anything having to do with Laila, Saman's mother's ordeal, etc.). It just ended up being a series of mostly unrelated snippets about repression that were never fleshed out.
Raditya Dika
Jun 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: indonesian
I read this one in highschool, some people found it a bit pretentious. I'm giving it an OK for a clairvoyant narration.
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Ayu Utami writings are splendid, this book is no exception. Sadly the plot, basically the romance part, did not grasps my interest. The book is written in three points of view, Laila, Shakuntala, and Saman yet somehow I found it a little bit disconnected from each other. Especially in the chapter where Shakuntala tells the story, mainly she talks about Laila's affair with a certain married man. It has little to no connection to Saman's part of the story. The book's title is Saman, obviously he's ...more
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it
While travelling through Bali and Java I was excited to read the work of an Indonesian author. The variety of written structures is engaging, with different characters giving their perspectives at different times and through different mediums (ending in letters and emails). My main criticism is that the story felt rushed and characters were introduced with purpose only for their narratives to not be fully finished. The backdrop of the story is political unrest in Indonesia during the 1980's and ...more
Sadie Forsythe
I think maybe a lot of this just went over my head. I loved Saman as a character and I liked the others well enough. I recognized the thread that held them all together as a cast. I appreciate that the book pushed boundaries when published in Indonesia, touching on the cruelty and oppression in famers' lives, repressive sexual attitudes, religion, transmigration and politics, etc. But in the actual reading of it, I thought the whole thing felt disjointed. At one point (about halfway through) I ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went into reading Saman knowing very little about Indonesia; either its geography or its culture. Saman takes place primarily on the island of Sumatra, and in New York City. I like the wavering timelines and wandering plot lines, which add layers to the surrealism component in Perabumulih. Saman is an interesting mix of theology, morality, sexuality, and survival. My only real complaint was that the book feels unresolved in any way. (There may be more in the series, but not translated to ...more
Robin McCarthy
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-harder
3.5 stars if that were a think. A nonlinear structure and roaming POV make SAMAN a workout, but each chapter is engrossing in its own right. Set mostly in Indonesia in the second half of the Twentieth Century, I think I’d read SAMAN was originally banned for its sexual content and feminist lens. That’s an interesting tidbit about a novel whose central character is a priest. Surprising and I’d read it again, but not one I’d recommend particularly widely.
Lekeisha The Booknerd
*2.5 stars*

Disappointing? Not entirely. When I went into this book, I was wholly excited. Coming out of it had me feeling a little off kilter. I'm all for sexualization, political forces turned upside down,history and feminism. This.... I don't even remember the first quarter of these less than 200 pages. Props to the author for this show of bravado. That is all.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, realistic
For the first time ever, I wish I had read this book in a classroom setting. Mainly because I don't feel like I have enough background information about Indonesia's politics and mix of different cultures to really understand it.
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Agree with Lasse's Oct 4 2007 review
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A page turner

Provocative and lyrical. You'll read it in a single sitting. The character of Saman never stops surprising his family and friends, from Sumatra to NYC
Nirmala Budi
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An Indonesian woman writes this book. This book has deep meaning. It is not only about women, but the real condition of Indonesia that period. It also shows about human rights.
Alberta Adji
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The most breathtaking book I have ever read.
It took me places beyond my wildest imagination.
Tenink EndangMart
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After years i decided not to buy books anymore (just because my old "bad" attitude - as my mom said when i start to have a book in my hand & inhale the book's smell then unconciously i will slowly shut down the world behind - thats my mom hates such an attitude of mine hahahah...miss ya mom).
Someday my sister asked me to buy special crayon for my niece in the biggest book store... that moment bring me back to the world i used to be.

I knew this book and the author Ayu Utami long time ago but
Jeremy Randolph
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
the taboo love and sex relation between a religious guy and a down syndrome girl really-really hooked me, Ayu Utami writes it with such a passionate words, it just so damn erotic.
like a sad but turned on kinda thing, have you ever had that? magic is in the air.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A strange novel and a bizarre experience, Saman leaves you feeling like you've been thrown into other people's lives, people living in conditions and dealing with problems you can never quite imagine. It does so while digging deep into their everyday passions, lusts, loves and jealousies. Utami has a gift for empathetic, realistic characters in dramatic, inhuman situations. She creates a real clash between the repressions and tortures of life in Indonesia and the modern struggles of her ...more
Lamski Kikita
Ten pages before the book ended I was going to give it four stars, but when I checked twice that the last page was actually the last page, I had to take one star off.

The story is told by four girlfriends who have been friends since school, and share more in common than even they think. Even though the title suggests that the book is the story of Saman (or Wis), it really isn't. It is a story about struggles, loves, diasporahs, and taboos. But most definately, about a state of a country.

I think
Henry Wijaya
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people care about Indonesian, critical people
Recommended to Henry by: Mas Lambang
Saman by Ayu Utami is one of Indonesian novels written by female writer that I love the most. It took a big role in encouraging me to love Indonesian literature.
The novel is very uncommon. First, it is uncommon because of the topic which discusses Indonesian politics. At that time, such a writing criticizing the government will only stimulate outrage from the goverment as accepting opinions, cretique, and arguments is not a common thing at that time (I think it is more or less the same
Here is an excerpt from a very inaccurate synopsis of this novel that I wrote for my blog, Around the World in 2000 Books:

There are three or four women (I seem to remember that it's actually four, but I can only remember any details about three of them) who are childhood friends and all have a crush on the same young priest who teaches them. The girls are from different religious backgrounds (maybe one of them is Muslim? Which would make sense in Indonesia, except I don't know why she'd be in
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
While the writing is that excellent, i really cant find the necessity of Laila's unrequited love which takes like, 1/3 of the book. The story actually starts on Saman's days before he uses 'Saman' as his name, and i feel like i wasted such a long time for reading Laila's story because hers is so fucking irrelevant with the story. If the author wanted to introduce saman through Laila, it shouldnt be that long. Not to mention that on Laila's arc, the mention of saman was really small, only took a ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've been wanting to read her books since a long time ago, and I bought Saman (along with her other books) last December when I was in holiday to Bandung. All the literary critics and praises featured in the book are representing what I want to say; really, they summed up into one conclusion: Ayu Utami is such a GENIUS. The novel surely deserves a place in Indonesian literature.

I think at first Ayu was writing this novel to criticise the political situation Indonesia faced in 1998, the same
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Justina Ayu Utami atau hanya Ayu Utami (lahir di Bogor, Jawa Barat, 21 November 1968) adalah aktivis jurnalis dan novelis Indonesia, ia besar di Jakarta dan menamatkan kuliah di Fakultas Sastra Universitas Indonesia.
Ia pernah menjadi wartawan di majalah Humor, Matra, Forum Keadilan, dan D&R. Tak lama setelah penutupan Tempo, Editor dan Detik pada masa Orde Baru, ia ikut mendirikan Aliansi

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Saman (3 books)
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“Banyak hal dengan mudah terlupakan, seperti kita sama sekali lupa kenapa kita tidak bisa mengingatnya lagi. Sesuatu bisa begitu saja hilang dari ingatan, seperti arwah, seperti mimpi. Kita cuma bisa merasakan jejaknya pada diri kita tanpa bisa mengenalinya lagi. Kita tinggal benci, kita tinggal marah, tinggal takut, tinggal cinta. Kita tak tahu kenapa.” 49 likes
“Dunia ini penuh dengan orang jahat yang tidak dihukum. Mereka berkeliaran. Sebagian karena tidak tertangkap, sebagian lagi memang dilindungi, tak tersentuh hukum, atau aparat.” 40 likes
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