Title: Amba
Author: Laksmi Pamuntjak
Publisher: PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2012
Pages: 494

Politik memang bukan tentang apa yang benar. Politik adalah bagaimana kita bisa salah dengan benar.

After waiting for quite sometime, finally here it is one of the best historical novel written down by Indonesian poet and writer, Laksmi Pamuntjak. She writes about a new reality to the country's 1965 tragedy. According to the author, she grew up with one-side version from school in the 1970s. It disturbed her. That's one of the reason why she wrote this novel. Although she has no intention to declare which part is right or wrong. 

In 2006, the author had the chance to visit Buru Island with ex-political prisoners and Tempo magazine senior editor Amarzan Loebis. This experience enriched her material in writing Amba. It took eight years for the author to finish this great work.

This is actually a love story. A once-in-a-lifetime love story, just like Romeo and Juliet. Let's meet Amba and Bhisma, the main characters, who bring the Mahabharata epic into a modern story. The chronicle is set against the backdrop of the bloody historical events of 1965 and the the penal colony of Buru Island, in Maluku.

The story is started in 2006 at Buru Island, when two women were found in blood. They tried to kill one another. Then we will be taken back to 1956 to Kadipura, a small village in central java where Amba was born, grew up, fell in love and disppointed. The story is told back and forth from 1956, 1965 then to 2006. 
Although this is a historical novel but it won't bore you. In fact you will fall in love with the story as the time you touch the first page. No it's not a page-turner kind of book but it's more like a book that you want to absorb it slowly and feel every word with your heart.

The author said, she fascinated with mythology. She found so much liberation and fun in reinterpreting characters from mythology. Therefore we will be touched by a smart yet poetic word in every page of the novel. Check some excerpts from the novel when the author described a drizzling rain:

Ia berjalan di bawah tirai air; ia tak sekalipun menyibak, apalagi menolaknya. Ke dalam malam itu, aku meniti turun, seakan-akan melayang, begitulah ia ingin mengenang detik-detik itu; dan sebelum cahaya muncul, ia ingat bagaimana tirai itu jatuh, begitu tipis, begitu bukan gerimis, lebih seperti sejuta benang yang merajut cermin.

(Laksmi Pamuntjak, Amba, page 168)
or this one:

Ia bercerita tentang hari-hari tertentu ketika warna laut diangkat dan ditebar ke selengkung langit dalam zat tipis yag datar, sebelum mewarnai bidang bumi. Kadang-kadang ia tumpah menyentuh ujung atap dan pucuk nyiur, dan meneduhi apa yang samar-samar kita ketahui: sudut-sudut kecil pikiran seseorang. 

(Laksmi Pamuntjak, Amba, page 433)   

The author Laksmi Pamuntjak is known for her five editions of the Jakarta Good Food Guide, poetry collections, short story collections and she's also the co-founder of Aksara bookstore.

There are not many stories with Buru Island as the setting. This book is beyond my expectation. I found so many things to fall in love with i.e. the setting, the characters, the plot, the historical facts and the poetic words. I guess I must label this book  as my all-time-favorite. Highly recommended.


alaya October 27, 2012 at 8:16 AM  

eh beneran bagus ya?
mau beli tapi ragu :D

riana October 29, 2012 at 8:53 AM  

@alaya: bagussss banget, you'll love it:)