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Durga/Umayi (Witch/Goddess) - A Novel

Y.B. Mangunwijaya. Translated by Ward Keeler.

The scathingly satirical and hilarious novel, first published in Bahasa Indonesia in 1991, affords both a blithely irreverent overview of Indonesian history in the Sukarno and Suharto eras and brilliant insights into the postcolonial condition.

The story begins in the 1930s, before Indonesia's independence from Dutch rule, and follows the fortunes of a poor Javanese village woman who becomes a servant in the household of President Sukarno. In a world where speaking truth to power really has no point, she learns the arts of accomodation and does very well for herself. The price she pays is the loss of her identity, her connection to kin and origins, and her moral standing. Framed by the world of ritual shadow plays--the realm of witches like Durga and the goddess Umayi--Mangunwijaya's novel gives an unblinking but remarkably compassionate account of people caught up in the great nationalist maelstrom of Indonesia's recent history.

«Durga/Umayi provides a fascinating window on Indonesian politics and culture, in addition to being a particularly interesting example of Indonesian literature. Its descriptions of violence and effects of it on ordinary people are truly outstanding. Its uniquely Indonesian style of magical realism, and the feminist twist, give it an added attraction in the context of contemporary literature.»
- Patrica Henry

«Rama Mangun would have loved this translation of his work.»
- Jennifer Lindsay, The Jakarta Post
Y.B. MANGUNWIJAYA(1929-2001) was a well-known Indonesian political activist and writer as well as a Catholic priest, engineer and architect.

Ward KEELER is Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Texas, Austin. He received the Harry J. Benda Prize in 1991 for his book Javanese Shadow Plays, Javanese Selves.

publication year: 2004
224 pages
ISBN: 978-9971-69-297-1  Paperback  US$22.00  S$28.00
A co-publication with University of Washington Press.
Our edition is available in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.


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Last modified on 17 March, 2011 by NUS Press