Gestapu: Cain’s Lamb and War and Humanity

I finally read my first short stories for the event Mel U and I hosted together, Read Indonesian Short Story. As I have promised in the introductory post, I read Gestapu. There are 10 shorts in the book, all were based upon the bloody event that took place in Indonesian in 1965.

The translator, Harry Aveling, provided the readers some information of an incident we called as G-30S-PKI (Gerakan 30 September- PKI) or in English, Communist Coup of 30th September 1965. We, Indonesian, know the history quite well…maybe not the detail but we all know the outline of that coup (Not sure about the young generation). I will quote it from Aveling’s introduction

That, night six members of the alleged Council of Generals were killed by members of the palace guard, the Tjakrabirawa, under the 4 command of Lt. Col. Untung.

Three of the generals were taken alive to Halim airbase, outside Jakarta: Major General Parman, Major General Huprapto and Brigadier General Sujoto. Three were taken there dead: Brigadier General Pandjaitan, Major General Harjono and Lieutenant General Achmad Yani. A seventh, General Nasution. escaped. elthough his young daughter subsequently died of gun wounds. Ar eighth, Major General Suharto, was not at home.

At Halim, the living generals were killed in a particularly brutal fashion, in the presence of members of the communist women’s organization, Gerwani, and the communist youth movement, Pemuda Rakjat. The bodies were beaten, shot and stabbed. All six were allegedly mutilated through the gouging out of eyes and the cutting off of genital organs

 I also like the way he closed his introduction

Many of the stories in the pages that follow are told in the first person, by Muslim young men. There can be no doubting the genuineness of the personal anguish felt at the necessity to kill other human beings, despite the certitude that such things were necessary. There is a deep compassion for the widows and children, and a concern for the bitterness that they may eventually feel and the possible social consequences. Death is the dominant note; in many places the stories are grim, brutal, even sadistic. Underneath, however,  is a deep humanitarianism. To read these stories is to understand a little better the agony that was Indonesia’s in 1965.

The short stories in this book are: Cain’s Lamb by Kipandjikusmin, War and Humanity by Usamah, Death by Mohammad Sjoekoer, Star of Death by Kipandjikusmin, The Climax by Satyagraha Hoerip, The Threat by H.G.Ugati, A woman and Her Children by Gerson Pyok, The Valey of The Shadow of Death by Zulidahlan, Dark Night by Martin Aleida, and A Minor Conflict by Sosiawan Nugroho.

The ones I read were Cain’s Lamb and War and Humanity…I really liked both stories and made me eager to read the rest of the stories as soon as possible…but they have to wait till I finished rereading all volumes of One Piece.

Cain’s Lamb by Kipandjikusmin

Cain’s Lamb tells the story of agony and suffering on a man named Karno. Karno was in the troop sent by Indonesian government to help Sarawak’s People Liberation Army to attack Malaysia. He was injured and captured. When he finally able to escape, he was taken care by a man named Daeng Sambara. Daeng taught him about the greatness of God’s will. Karno didn’t feel safe staying with Daeng, so he decided to go back to Jakarta. He went back to his barrack and learned that he had been proclaimed dead and died as a hero. He didn’t want the memory of dying for the country ruined by his appearance and let things be. But something terrible had happened to his family because his father was in the communist party and that fact snapped him. He made a decision that dishonored his heroism.

I really like this short, it was really tragic and touched my heart. What Karno did was unquestionably wrong but I can’t blame him for everything, after all he had defended the country just to find his whole family was gone. I can really feel the pain in Karno’s heart as he was badly burned because of the attack on Malaysia. He had suffer so bad but kept his patience intact.

Apart from the story, I also like the way Aveling translated this story, it was translated beautifully.  I enjoy reading every words of it. Here’s a quote from the short:

He sat dazed, as though he had just woken from a dream. As he stood the questions crowded back into his head. What should he do? The report was wrong. Should he plead he was still alive? That would destroy the last remnants of his pride in being a commando. No matter how battered that pride was, he wanted to retain it.

The translation made me wonder how the original language would be…but I doubt I could truly enjoy it because it was a short from1966, which mean it was written in old school Indonesian spelling, one I am not used to. That old spelling used ‘oe’ for ‘u’ and ‘dj’ for ‘j’…therefore juga (also) would be written in djoega. I am also curious to read more shorts by Kipandjikusmin.

War and Humanity by Usamah

War and Humanity was written in first person, Usamah was telling us about his experience and the interrogation team to find out who was involved in PKI.

At the beginning of November 1965, an interrogation team, from the Action Command to Crush Gestapu was established in Solo. I represented Pasar Kliwon Command. The city office was set up in the town hall. I was first a typist, then an informant, and finally an intelligence assistant. My duties were to check the accuracy of the reports we ‘were given. It involved a lot of work.

There were other, unpleasant aspects. One had to interrogate prisoners, for example. I had not realized before that my life could be in danger; many of the prisoners swore silently to get me one day as well. I knew some of the prisoners and had twice to interrogate my own friends.

Usamah soon learned the difficulty to stay focused on finding the communist and the feeling he had for his friends or people he knew. He felt that what the army had done was not entirely correct. It was an unnecessary act to kill those people to give example to the rest of the communist. Indonesia was on the brink of war and if the communist won, the same thing would happen to the opposite site. His humanity couldn’t tolerate the things the army did even though it was under the impression to save the country.

War and Humanity is an interesting story of a battle inside someone’s heart. A strong battle that often faced by people in the state of war, especially from the civilian part. Although I also like this story, but I still like the first one because the agony felt strongly in Cain’s Lamb.

I have to give two thumbs up to Aveling as he managed to translate the two stories in different style. He didn’t translate War and Humanity in a way he had translated Cain’s Lamb. I said before that Cain’s Lamb was written in beautifully arranged sentences,  on the other hand War and Humanity was written in plain sentences (I guess this is also the reason why I like Cain’s Lamb more). War and Humanity was written in diary or report style.

In conclusion, I really like both story and admired Aveling’s ability in translating the stories. I am really really curious with the rest of the stories. This is the first time I am curious with collection of shorts by many authors. I often abandoned such books because it felt weird to read in many styles of writing. I will pick this book again the minute I finished reading One Piece.

I will try to read another short in the list I have written in my introductory post in between One Piece.

I do hope more people join this fun event Mel U and I had hosted. Reading a short story will not caused you a whole day , less than an hour…so come and join  us 🙂

You can find the link to download Gestapu in my introductory post.

4 thoughts on “Gestapu: Cain’s Lamb and War and Humanity

  1. Very well reviewed Novroz!
    This reads like an interesting compilation and the stories you speak of seem subtle yet fascinating. Its a good idea this – a short story festival… a good opportunity for people like yours truly who are new to Indonesian literature.

    1. Thank you, Deboshree.
      Both stories are fascinating, they really show the dark past that we had here…fortunately I wasn’t born at that year.
      Finding books from many countries is a fun thing, I have it in mind to find Indian authors one day. Hope you can join the festival, Deboshree. would love to read your review as you always write in beautiful chosen words.

  2. These stories sound very good. I had not heard of this period in Indonesian history. I would like to read the two stories you read. it does seem as if the translator did a great job in capturing the differences of both stories. That is admirable.

    1. Please do read them, Caroline…I’d love to know your point of view of them. I remember how different our opinion on The sea and poison. It was fun to read such difference.

      We were closed of turning like Vietnam. PKI (Indonesian Communism Party) has never been reestamblished ever since and people here become very suspicious with anyone who wears the symbol of that party.

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