Durga Umayi

A Novel

Y. B. Mangunwijaya
Translated by Ward Keeler

  • $30.00s paperback (9780295983929) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2004
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies; Literature / Fiction
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 5.5 x 8.5 in.
  • Territorial rights: N / A In Australia and New Zealand
  • Published with: Singapore University Press
  • Contents

This scathingly satirical and hilarious novel, first published in 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 accommodation and does very well for herself. The price she pays is the loss of her identity, her connection to her 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.
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 the University of Texas, Austin.

"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 the 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."
-Dr. Patricia Henry, Northern Illinois University
Translator's Introduction

Durga / Umayi

About the Author
Translator's Notes
Afterword: Mangunwijaya as Novelist/Puppeteer
Further Reading

"This is easily one of the most inventive, urgent and passionate texts I've read. It's also a testament to what skilled translators, the neglected heroes of the world literature scene, can achieve. Hats off to you, Ward Keeler."
-Ann Morgan,, March 2012

"The exuberance and the deep feelings of this well-translated tour de force should help push this book into the hands of readers from many backgrounds. Father Mangunwijaya's novel escapes many strictures."
-Journal of Asian Studies

"The exuberance and deep feelings of this well-translated tour de force should help push this book into the hands of readers from many backgrounds."
-The Journal of Asian Studies

"Ward Keeler's brilliant translation of this 1991 Indonesian classic could not be a more impressively persuasive interpretation.."
-Multicultural Review