This Earth of Mankind

How are you guys doing this Saturday? Today I will actually be spending the day in my room. It's kinda strange because I can't remember when the last time I spent the Saturday in my room. I used to have Saturday classes. Then when I don't, I usually have the movies. This week does not have any movie that I like, so here I am, just gonna watch something in my computer. I will still go out later though, I need to feed myself.

Today's choice is the Italian movie, La Prima Cosa Bella. I'm not sure if there's a subtitle but the whole purpose of choosing an Italian movie is to make sure my knowledge of it is not totally gone. Last week, I watched Habemus Papam. Love the idea but really didn't like the ending. It made me so disappointed and it added to my depressed feeling. I like to believe that such a case will not happen to a real elected pope. He will not waiver from his task. I guess what I wanted to see was the belief and faith that God will sustain you and if someone who was elected pope is not believing it, well as I said it added to my depression. However it's fiction, so I shouldn't let it ruin me much.

Anyways, the title of the post is the english translation of Bumi Manusia. It's a book from Pramoedya Ananta Toer, which I had finally finished reading. The story was first told verbally to Toer's fellows inmates when he was a political prisoner. It was then written 2 years after he started telling the story. I found it to be really remarkable. I wondered if the story evolved as he told the story or he knew from beginning how it was going to play out. Since the book is the first in a tetralogy, it is really something if he had seen how the characters would develop throughout. The books were written before I was bornt but the setting of it happened even way longer, during the time of Dutch colonization in Indonesia and that made for a very interesting feeling in me when I read the book.

You see, I had come to think that the Westerners are not necessarily better than us Asians. I mean you just need to cite something out of American TV as a proof. However you cannot deny that many Asians still kinda look at the Westerners as rather superior, even here, in the modern state of Singapore. Reading the book, I was just kinda shocked seeing how the main character, a javanese boy, felt that the European education and culture to be way more superior than his being as a javanese. He did feel differently as the story goes. However, I still had a hard time to relate with his thoughts and idea and also the perception at that time. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that even the so called noble javanese family thought very highly of the Dutch. I guess Indonesian history is really pretty long and complex. When we were young, we are always taught that the Dutch colonialized Indonesia for three and an half centuries, that is 350 years. We learnt about the wars, the heroes, the treaties. We also had lessons on the kingdoms before colonization. Then there was the independence period and kids these days may learn about the reformation period. So with all those to remember, who had time to look at how people lived and the perception of the people on a personal level into what was happening. Reading the book, at this period, it seemed the Javanese were just embracing the Dutch control of their land.

Life changed for this javanese boy when he fell in love and eventually married a girl who's half Dutch and half Javanese. It is also an interesting story to note about these kids who are half Dutch, half Indonesians. I imagine it would be like the stories of the kids who were bornt out of African slaves and their white masters. The Dutch government refused to acknowledge the marriage and the girl was considered as Dutch and the Javanese mother had no right of her. At the end of the story, she was shipped to the Netherlands. Drama! I'm looking forward to know what happened next. The girl was not my favorite character in the book. I thought she was disappointingly mentally weak, but then I thought maybe she has just reached the state where she just couldn't go on anymore with all the problems in her life, and since I am currently feeling something like that, I sympathize with her a bit. I'm sure she's this great wonderful girl. The character whom I had much more respect for is Nyai Ontosoroh. She's this strong Javanese woman who learned to stand on her own feet and be a person whom everyone can lean to. It reminded me of my favorite character in 100 Years of Solitude, Ursula, who was also a mother. Toer did give her some flaws which is something that he gave to all his characters. Noone was perfect in his book. Everyone had some demons that they had to deal with. It is an interesting read because it is really so different. It's like a world which I thought would feel familiar for me since it's Indonesia but it turned out to be quite foreign. I did have some disappointment like there's a murder whose resolution is not so satisfying for me. I don't know if it would be explained more in the next book. I think it would make a nice movie actually, but I kinda don't have much confidence that Indonesian movie makers can do it justice. Maybe I am underestimating them.

So I completed my goal of 5 books for this year, I had read Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, Plum Spooky, The Night Circus, Lord of the Flies, and Bumi Manusia. I am currently reading What I Did On My Holidays. Not a book I would chose for myself. It was given to me. It's about a girl who got dumped the day before she supposed to go on a trip to Majorca with her boyfriend. She supposed to turn 30 during the trip. There I was thinking that the time I turned 30 was miserable, this girl had it pretty bad. So far in the book, she decided to just pretend to be in Majorca than to go there alone. So she just holed up in her London apartment. Truly not a book I would chose for myself. I like to think of myself as kinda intellectual. I know that's an arrogant thing to say, but really I would be embarrassed if I get caught reading twilight or the 50 shades book. Some of the things I had in my little collection consists of things from Kahlil Gibran, Paulo Coelho, and Gabriel García Márquez. Of course since I love Harry Potter, perhaps some people who love Lord of the Rings would think of that as a very dumb choice. Anyways this kinda book has its attractive feature, just like how I am attracted to watch chick flick. I cannot deny that. At the very least, this book is easy to read. Reading this girl moping around turned the pages faster than reading the boys in Lord of the Flies moped around about being deserted in an island without adult supervision. I wonder if I can finish this book before the year ends. I kinda like this whole reading thing. Of course my isolation helps me a lot in forcing me to read. May next year be filled with more interesting find.

Before I leave, let me leave you with something. When I was preparing for DELF, Mr. V told us to listen to radio france to improve our listening skill. He was refering to the news channel but I went to the one which played songs all day with a tiny bit of news update every hour or so. There I chanced upon this french singer, Ben L'Oncle Soul. I think he's so talented and I love his music a lot. He would define it as soul. Whatever it is, it's kinda off the main stream. It's kinda the type of music that I really love to listen. I find it more meaningful that pop music. Currently in my ipod playlist, I'm putting him together with the American Raphael Saadiq, Italian Nina Zilli, and the Indonesian band whom I also just recently discovered, Soulvibe. I love them a lot. Soulvibe feels like what happened when you mix the Indonesian band RAN and Maliq and D'Essentials. 2 other bands which I also love. Anyway when I listen to Ben L'Oncle Soul's album, I just kinda want to sway a bit and the heart smiles a little. To show you how great he is, I am leaving you with this clip of him singing, Barbie Girl. Dig your memory a bit and remember this song actually exists. Unfortunately, your head will remember some of the lines of the song. Sorry about that, I promise that this one is really good :)

:) eKa @ 1:00:00 PM •


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