Desember Kelabu: A Novel About Love and Loss in Indonesia

    Desember Kelabu: A Novel About Love and Loss in Indonesia

    Desember Kelabu (Grey December) is a novel by Indonesian author Agus Noor that tells the story of a young couple who fall in love during the turbulent times of the 1965 coup and the subsequent anti-communist massacres. The novel explores the themes of love, betrayal, survival, and memory in the context of Indonesia’s history and culture.

    The novel follows the lives of Rendra and Sari, who meet at a university in Jakarta and fall in love despite their different backgrounds and political views. Rendra is a student activist who supports President Sukarno and his nationalist ideology, while Sari is a daughter of a wealthy businessman who sympathizes with the army and its anti-communist agenda. Their relationship is tested by the events of September 30, 1965, when a group of junior officers attempted to overthrow the government and killed six top generals. The coup failed, but it triggered a violent backlash from the army and its supporters, who accused the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and its allies of being behind the plot. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly suspected communists or sympathizers, were killed or imprisoned in the following months.

    Rendra and Sari are separated by the chaos and violence that engulfed the country. Rendra is arrested and tortured by the army for his involvement in the student movement, while Sari escapes to her family’s villa in Bali. They lose contact with each other and do not know if the other is alive or dead. Years later, they reunite by chance in Jakarta, but they have changed by their experiences and the trauma they endured. They struggle to reconnect and reconcile their past and present, as well as their hopes and fears for the future.

    Desember Kelabu is a novel that portrays the human cost of one of the darkest periods in Indonesia’s history. It also celebrates the resilience and courage of those who survived and tried to rebuild their lives. The novel has been praised by critics and readers for its realistic and nuanced depiction of the characters and their emotions, as well as its rich and vivid description of Indonesia’s culture and landscape. The novel has won several awards, including the Khatulistiwa Literary Award in 2010.

    The novel is divided into three parts, each corresponding to a different time period and location. The first part, titled “Jakarta 1965”, introduces the main characters and their backgrounds, as well as the political and social situation in Indonesia before the coup. The second part, titled “Bali 1966”, focuses on Sari’s life in Bali after she flees from Jakarta. She tries to cope with the loss of Rendra and the guilt of leaving him behind, while also dealing with the pressure from her family and society to marry a suitable man. The third part, titled “Jakarta 1970”, depicts the reunion of Rendra and Sari in Jakarta after five years of separation. They have to face the changes that have occurred in themselves and in their country, as well as the unresolved issues and feelings that still linger between them.

    The novel is written in a simple and straightforward style, with short sentences and paragraphs. The author uses a third-person omniscient narrator who switches between the perspectives of Rendra and Sari, as well as other minor characters. The author also uses flashbacks and memories to reveal the characters’ thoughts and emotions, as well as to provide background information and historical context. The novel is rich in cultural references and details, such as the names of places, foods, songs, and customs that reflect Indonesia’s diversity and heritage. The novel also incorporates some elements of magical realism, such as dreams, visions, and symbols that add a layer of mystery and symbolism to the story.

    Hi, I’m Adam Smith

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