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Pengakuan di Hari Jadi

Tidak terasa sudah enam tahun Blogger Buku Indonesia berdiri, dan sudah enam tahun pula saya bergabung menjadi anggota. Sering kali, setiap kali BBI berulang tahun, saya selalu terkenang masa-masa awal komunitas narablog buku ini berdiri, yang juga merupakan masa-masa awal saya bergabung dan hanya mengenal satu-dua orang teman. Dulu di masa-masa awal itu, bisa dibilang komunitas ini sedang aktif-aktifnya: admin Twitter tidak pernah absen dan selalu mencuit ulang tautan resensi/artikel anggota setidaknya di awal/akhir pekan, selalu saja ada kegiatan posting/baca bareng (walaupun saya tidak pernah ikut), dan masih ada event yang namanya Secret Santa di setiap Natal/akhir tahun (meski saya tidak pernah ikut juga). Karena jumlah anggotanya masih sedikit, masing-masing jadi mudah akrab dan sering sekali mengobrol di Twitter, entah apa saja yang diobrolkan. Saat itu (dan sekarang pun masih) saya bukanlah anggota yang aktif mengikuti kegiatan ini-itu ataupun kenal dengan banyak anggota lainnya, tapi saya bisa merasakan atmosfer kedekatan dan keaktifan di tubuh komunitas BBI.
Sekarang keadaan sudah berbeda. Jumlah anggota sudah bertambah banyak, tapi seiring dengan itu bertambah banyak pula anggota yang “menghilang” dari Twitter, admin juga tidak seaktif dulu lagi, banyak yang sudah tidak/jarang aktif di blog buku masing-masing, bahkan ada anggota yang keluar. Jika bicara tentang keluar atau mengundurkan diri dari BBI, terus terang, ini jujur sejujurnya, saya pun beberapa kali terpikir untuk berhenti menjadi anggota komunitas ini. Ada banyak alasan, mulai dari perbedaan pendapat dengan satu maupun hampir semua anggota, merasa bahwa keanggotaan saya di sini tidak ada gunanya, sampai atmosfer yang tidak lagi terasa akrab. Ketika terjadi perbedaan pendapat antara saya dan anggota-anggota yang lain, saya hanya bisa diam dan tidak berani mengungkapkannya pada siapa pun karena seakan-akan semua anggota (paling tidak yang aktif di Twitter dan saya kenal) satu suara dan berlawanan dengan saya. Saya jadi tertekan: saya harus bicara pada siapa? Jika saya buka suara di Twitter, saya takut justru akan memancing perang cuitan, karena memang sudah menjadi tabiat hampir semua warganet bersikap lebih frontal dan galak di media sosial. Saya tertekan dan jadi merasa tidak punya teman. Saya hanya bisa diam dan malah menceritakannya pada sahabat saya yang notabene bukan anggota BBI. Ini terjadi sudah lama sekali, tapi saya masih ingat.

Kadang-kadang saya juga merasa keanggotaan saya di BBI tidak ada gunanya, tidak tahu kenapa. Mungkin karena sayanya yang kurang aktif, mungkin karena kurang kenal banyak anggota, mungkin karena saya merasa bahwa dengan atau tanpa BBI saya tetap bisa menulis resensi di blog saya. Entahlah. Dan kadang pula, ada ganjalan atmosfer yang sudah tidak lagi terasa akrab lantaran banyak anggota yang sudah tidak aktif lagi di Twitter. Kenapa saya tidak pindah saja ke Instagram, Facebook, atau WhatsApp seperti yang lain? Karena saya mencegah diri saya agar tidak melakukan apa yang dilakukan orang lain, alias mengikuti arus.

Lantas, kenapa selama enam tahun ini saya masih bertahan? Apa alasan dan pertimbangan saya? Untuk pertanyaan ini saya juga tidak tahu jawaban pastinya. Mungkin, ini mungkin saja, karena saya menyamakan menjadi anggota BBI dengan ikatan pernikahan. Pernikahan terjadi antara dua orang yang berbeda yang terlahir dari dua orang ibu yang berbeda pula, jadi tidak mungkin seratus persen cocok. Saudara kembar saja bisa berbeda, apalagi anak orang lain? Dalam pernikahan pun kadang-kadang ada rasa hambar di satu titik saking kita sudah terbiasa dengan orang yang ada di samping kita, atau mungkin saking sepasang suami-istri itu jarang bertemu. Tapi pernikahan bukanlah tempat untuk “mencari bahagia”, tapi untuk berkomitmen. Jika tidak siap dengan segala perbedaan dan kehampaan suatu hubungan, memang sebaiknya tidak/tunda dulu menjalin sebuah ikatan.

Yah, mungkin itulah alasan saya tetap berada di komunitas BBI ini: komitmen. Saya sudah ada di sini sejak komunitas ini berdiri, dan saya akan tetap ada di sini sampai komunitas ini tidak ada lagi. Insyaallah. Dan dengan ini, saya ingin mengucapkan selamat hari jadi yang keenam untuk Blogger Buku Indonesia. Bagaimanapun, BBI adalah rumah bagi saya di mana saya bisa “berkumpul” dengan orang-orang yang sehobi dengan saya, yaitu membaca dan menulis. Semoga kita bisa semakin menghargai perbedaan, kembali akrab, dan semakin kuat demi ikut memajukan dunia literasi Indonesia. Perjuangan untuk mengajak orang agar gemar membaca (dan senang menulis) belum berhenti selama statistiknya masih menyedihkan. Saya juga ingin meminta maaf jika selama ini saya sangat pasif, jarang sekali blogwalking, dan tidak mengenal dekat para anggota yang lain. Semoga komunitas kita ini semakin maju! 🙂

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I Don’t Give a D***

I’ve wanted to put this nagging thing on my mind into words for so long and blog it up here but found myself not having the heart to do it. Now, I’ll be doing it for a thousand words or so. Watch out, you may not like it.

People have favorite writers, so do I. But most of the time they have “favorite people” whose works they just happen to read, or love to read. These “favorite people” have some favorable qualities or likable personalities that make readers adore them even more than their works. These qualities/personalities can be certain charming characters (inspiring, wise, sympathetic, or simply having a heart of gold), or they can be their sex/gender (“I read this book because the author is a woman” doesn’t seem to be a rare expression these days). I’m not accusing people of not having literary taste or something, but sometimes you just can’t help it, can you? Because when you think the books these “favorite people” produce are so great and inspiring you will go to the bookstore and spend what little money you have to buy them and read them enthusiastically till midnight, but when you finally discover that these “favorite people” are a******* (or that they use pseudonyms and are actually not the person you think they are) you will have a doubt and eventually stop reading their books no matter how marvelous they are. You may think that I’m merely talking nonsense here, but I was, and am, a witness to this nonsense.

Years ago, at least that I remember, a best-selling author had just released the English edition of his book under a huge literary publisher in the United States. After quite some time, a blogger put his doubts on his blog over the nature of the release, saying loud and clear that actually the book was published by a small press and not a big player. He also severely criticized the many changes occured in the translated version, pointing out that the US edition might have not been translated from the original manuscript but was merely an adaptation. The author went mad at the “accusation”, and at the blogger, too, of course, and called his lawyer straight away to sue said blogger. It blew up and went viral on the Internet. Everyone on Twitter were condemning him mercilessly and ceaselessly, calling him arrogant and some other names and swore to God that they would never, ever again read his books. I remember feeling disappointed. I understood that it was not the best attitude of an author, but I have to say that it was not the best attitude of a reader, either. People left him, but I stayed. I stayed for the sake of his work. I stayed because I knew he was not the only one to make such a horrible mistake, or the only one to try keeping a good image but failed. I stayed because I knew being a writer in the book industry is a complicated thing. Really, sometimes I wonder what people’s reactions will be if the gossip that J.K. Rowling is actually not J.K. Rowling is true. Will they leave her and promise to never read her books anymore? And what about those senior male writers they said always trying to get into young female writers’ pants? If this rumor proves to be true, and we find out who those male writers are, will we leave them, too?

Writers are not gods, they make mistakes and they sin. If you look at what they are more than you do what they write, you’ll only tear your heart apart because all human beings are sinful, we are all sinful. So I don’t think we should read books for the authors’ “outer” image, or for their sex/gender, for that matter. I know the campaign to read more female writers today is all about making balance in the book industry, since the literary world has been indeed ruled by men for so very long. I am a woman and I can understand the need to do so. But I don’t want to be a gender-bound reader. I want to read a book only if it’s worth reading. What if a book, written by a female writer, is badly written? People hail women writers but they diss E.L. James, and every romance writer there is in the book industry, for they think romances they produce are a bunch of crap. If you really think you should read more female writers, then you should read E.L. James, not despising her on every article you write. So, I do think we should appreciate writers more for their capabilities than their sex/gender, if this is truly about “gender equality”.

You may think I’ve gone out of my mind, but it’s just not in my nature to judge a book by its author. I don’t care if it’s a he or a she, and I absolutely don’t care if he/she is a complete a****** or a wiseguy giving you some spiritual enlightenment on social media. Most of my favorite writers are men and one of them (yes, that best-selling author) was damned by almost the entire readership for his incapability to put his arrogance in the right place. From what I read on online newspapers and literary magazines, I could tell that Orhan Pamuk is not a charming person, but I love his books because they can equally reflect the social/cultural issues in my country; and I do not adore Sapardi Djoko Damono because we share the same cultural background (as Javanese people coming originally from Solo) but because we share the same opinion about everything and anything and have the same sense of humor, too, as reflected in his fiction works. I like Isabel Allende not because she is a woman, but because her Tripartite are a bunch of masterpieces and could really speak to me. In short, I don’t give a d***. For me it’s their works that matter, not their personalities. They can go to hell for whatever reason and I will still read their books if those books are truly great and inspiring. As E.M. Forster put it, “I am more interested in works than authors.”

I realize that it’s totally pointless to address this issue on my blog. But I just want people to know. Well, whoever those who actually read my blog. And I do not wish for anything, for I know everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. And this is mine.

fiction, review

Dijual: Keajaiban

32918651421_ddb0ce58f9_oNine different writers from various Asian countries with nine different stories. Dijual: Keajaiban is an anthology that provides you with this wonderful miracle. Despite the geographical question you might be left with after perusing the list of writers contributing to the collection, the nine short pieces bring you thought-provoking ideas, deep, vividly drawn characters, emotional plots and thoughtful messages. This book is something we can call a hidden gem, something that might not be popular among readers (here in this country) but has the value of a treasure.

All the stories contained in this book are of high quality, there is no doubt about it. But there are four that can truly tear your heart apart, or at least leave you dead silent and aware of the reality around you. The first one is also the first to welcome readers to the collection, a very subtle love story by the Chinese Nobel laureate, Gao Xingjian, entitled In the Park. It’s about a couple of childhood friends who meet again when they are grown up and are talking about their past and present, while watching a restless woman waiting for the man she loves nearby. The way Gao composes the dialogs tells us how both of them are actually in love with each other, unluckily, destiny doesn’t seem to want to see them together. But there has to be someone to blame, and the woman doesn’t conceal the fact that she intends to do so. However, it is not this attitude, or the subtle conflict being told she has with her male friend, which pulls the reader to the depth of the narrative, but the idea of how women, even in a personal love affair, has always to be on the losing side. It is crystal clear from what the woman says to the man:

“If the woman falls in love first, it’s always unlucky.”

The second lump-in-the-throat story of the book is Qismati and Nasibi by Naguib Mahfouz. Imagine you have a Siamese twin sibling and you cannot get away from the fact, much less from them. Characteristically, you both are so different you might as well be two different people born from two different mothers, and nothing unites you but your conjoined bodies. You cannot help but hate each other and fight almost everyday, sometimes willing to take the defeat only to get spurred again and determined to get what you want without an ounce of care about your twin’s feelings. Life is like a hell on earth, so much worse than that even. Unfortunately, even death cannot do you apart.

To Look Out the Window by Orhan Pamuk is as much heart-breaking. With its rather flat narrative, it surprisingly has the ability to set fire to the reader’s heart and make what seems to be a simple idea of family affair feel more moving and profound than any other Pamuk’s story ever did. Told from a first-person point of view, this long short story talks about a father secretly leaving his wife and children without so much as a word but telling his youngest son, who doesn’t have the faintest idea of what actually happens, not to tell anyone about his leaving for Paris. It appears, though, as the story progresses, that he leaves them for another woman. Pamuk is very clever in how he employs the viewpoint of an innocent little boy to elaborate his creation of a plot and describe the feelings of adults around him. On the one hand, it indeed makes it seem like nothing is really happening, but on the other, from the way the little boy relates his mother’s state of mind and conversations we can tell that she is suffering from severe depression and trying hard to deal with it, and to find out what she should do next. It’s a very sad story, and it’s my most favorite of all.

Yusuf Idris’ A Tray from Heaven is also moving, but in its own funny, stinging way. It hilariously relates the life of an old man named Syaikh Ali—poor, jobless, uneducated, with no family at all. His bad temper never leaves the people of his village upset, instead, they think his rage and the way he takes it out on his poverty are funny and entertaining. Until one day he gets them into a panic because he takes it out on God and curses Him for he hasn’t eaten the whole day. His neighbors are all afraid God will retaliate against the entire village for his foolish act. So on their own initiative, they give Syaikh Ali any food they have in store on a tray. And they keep doing it every time he gets cranky and starts to verbally attack the Almighty.

All characters inhabiting each story in Dijual: Keajaiban are portrayals of ordinary people, they are there to reflect our complicated, gray life with all the bitter-sweet: poverty, patriarchy, destiny, humanity, and, of course, miracles. They are, in some ways, not the center of the story where they live and look alive, but they are the center of attention to the reader. It is through their existence, then, that readers are able to look into the depth of each narrative and find out what the writer wants to say. This is especially true of The Blind Dog (R.K. Narayan) and Miracles for Sale (Taufiq el-Hakim). Both the blind dog and the priest are not the narrators, nor are they the aspects we should give more emphasis to, but it is through their characterizations that we see the messages and criticisms expressed strongly in each of the storylines.

With the exception, unfortunately, of Yukio Mishima’s The Seven Bridges, every short story put into this anthology is very affecting and incredibly moving. The writings grip you, so much so that you need to pull yourself together to carry on reading. This kind of prose needs undoubtedly a superb writing technique and a perceptive mind, and the translated version needs a superb translator to do it. Tia Setiadi could really do it. It seems like he could naturally catch the tone used by each writer and follow their writing styles. It read so smooth and natural, as if those stories are his own. There are, however, some questioning diction and several sentences translated too much literally. It was a little annoying but fortunately it occured only rarely. No harm done. What actually bothering is the line-up of writers the publisher, or the editor, chose to get their stories put together into this “all-Asian” collection. There are two writers from Egypt and one from Turkey. When the entire literary world, people in general, and even Turkish people themselves think of Turkey as a European country, the editor of the collection put Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel laureate, into the list. Perhaps, it’s just perhaps, the editor thought that since Turks were originally coming from Central Asia, and the majority of the land geographically lies in Asia, then Turkey is fundamentally an Asian country. But what about the two writers from Egypt? The last time I checked, this country is still located in Africa. Why were they chosen to contribute their pieces to the book? Is it only because they write in Arabic? If so, then it sounds like Isabel Allende is thought of as a writer from Spain just because she writes in Spanish while in fact she comes from Chile in South America. I’d rather have writers from South Korea or South East Asia. We’ve got plenty here.

Having said that, I’d still like to thank the editor and the publisher for bringing out Dijual: Keajaiban. It really is a miraculous book, some kind of hidden gem that will make you feel rich only by reading the whole nine stories.

Rating: 4/5

poetry, review

Melipat Jarak: Sepilihan Sajak

32572055191_8df2ceb2fb_oMelipat Jarak: Sepilihan Sajak comprises Sapardi Djoko Damono’s selected poems written and published between 1998 and 2015. Quite different from Hujan Bulan Juni, his other book of selected poems released back in 2014, this one’s central theme is more of nature, God and spirituality, and old age. There is no so much as a hint of human love and romanticism in each and every one of the seventy five works contained in this book. But instead of being boring and lifeless, I found Melipat Jarak so heart-shredding and profound.

The collection opens with Catatan Masa Kecil, 4, a paragraphed poem about a little child who only knows of, and is so fond of, the number zero. It is intriguing how Mr. Damono, as an old man himself, explores the mind of a child and presents, if not writtenly imagines, that child’s take on numbers. The style may not be the prime quality for it’s not surprisingly new, but it is something that brings out the storytelling goal of the poem to the surface. Without it, the reader might not catch the reminiscent tone intended for them to sense; it would merely be verses and rhymes. And we won’t find this paragraphing in the opening poem only, but also in some others, like Sepasang Lampu Beca, which needs to bring up into view its “hidden narrative”.

In stark contrast to the first poem of the collection, many of Mr. Damono’s other works here talk about old-age life. Anyone already read his poetry books before must have been familiar with a piece entitled Ada Berita Apa Hari Ini, Den Sastro?, a nine-part poem telling of an old man who has been retired from his job and from everything else and the only thing he does everyday is reading newspapers at the terrace of his house without anyone, not even his own neighbors, paying attention to him. It emanates loneliness and elicits sadness, describing a kind of life where we will be only doing boring things, recalling the past, reading news and stories of other people on papers while totally ignored by those in reality, waiting for death to come to us. Reading this poem, the reader might get the feeling that it will happen to them one day, especially when there is no one beside us anymore. Interestingly, Mr. Damono describes this purgatory not only in one or two poems, but in many numbers, including Sebelum Fajar, which is very much heart-breaking, and Old Friends, a brief, funny poem about a lot of old people sitting in a wait for their turn at a hospital.

As I have mentioned earlier, many a poem in Melipat Jarak brings up the subjects of nature, God, and spirituality. They are so many that they seem to be the soul of the book. Sometimes these themes of God and nature are blended together into one, like what we find in the poem Surah Penghujan: Ayat 1-24. This isn’t so because of the title, nor the form that replicates the verses in the Koran, where God speaks to humans, but for it subtly describes the power of God transforming into changes of seasons which cannot be denied no matter how hard humans refuse them. In others, like the ones entitled Tiga Sajak Ringkas Tentang Cahaya (about the light of the moon and sun) and Sajak Tafsir (where every element of nature denies the way others describe its shape, name, and role in this world), Mr. Damono purely talks about the nature and how it works. Meanwhile, in poems like Sajak-sajak Kecil Tentang Cinta, Tentu. Kau Boleh, and Sajak dalam Sembilan Bagian, he channels out his creativity solely into the subject of God, spirituality, and how he interacts with the Almighty.

As engrossing as those poems mentioned above might seem, none of them bears uniqueness as attractive as Malin Kundang and Sudah Kubilang, Jangan Kamu ke Sana, which are meant to represent the “alternative narratives” of an Indonesian folklore, Malin Kundang, and a well-known Western fairy tale, Cinderella, respectively. It is not the only time for Mr. Damono to tinker with folklores, legends, or fairy tales for he has ever done it with the story of Ramayana in his 2-in-1 short story collection, Pada Suatu Hari Nanti, Malam Wabah, but still they are fascinating creations. In Malin Kundang, the betraying son is not cursed into a stone, instead, people of his land warn him against coming back home so he can dodge the bullet. While Sudah Kubilang, Jangan Kamu ke Sana is a totally different take on the happily-ended, popular love story. There are, on the other hand, pieces of which uniqueness is more on the form than the content; some poems like Sunyi yang Lebat, Tiga Percakapan Telepon (something I’ve never discovered before), Sebilah Pisau Dapur yang Kaubeli Dari Penjaja yang Setidaknya Seminggu Sekali Muncul di Kompleks, yang Selalu Berjalan Menunduk dan Hanya Sesekali Menawarkan Dagangannya dengan Suara yang Kadang Terdengar Kadang Tidak, yang Kalau Ditanya Berapa Harganya Dikatakannya, “Terserah Situ Saja…”, Urat Daun, and Dialog yang Terhapus. Their meanings are somehow unfathomable, but the beauty of their verses and rhymes is undeniably fun and enjoyable.

I cannot say I know much about poetry—the techniques, the figure of speech, the rhyme patterns and all that stuff—but overall I enjoyed Melipat Jarak so much. All the poems contained in this collection seemed to speak to me in every way, though it’s not to say that I could understand every one of them. Now I’ll close this review with some quote from one of my favorite numbers here, Dongeng Marsinah, a quote that is more powerful than that of Descartes:

“Ia suka berpikir,” kata Siapa,

(“She likes to think,” says Who)

“itu sangat berbahaya.”

(“that’s very dangerous.”)

Rating: 4/5

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Workshop Penulisan Resensi Bersama BBI

Hari Minggu lalu, tanggal 26 Februari 2017, salah seorang teman dari Blogger Buku IndonesiaBZee, mengajak saya untuk mengadakan semacam workshop penulisan resensi buku untuk anak-anak usia sekolah (SD sampai SMA) di perpustakaan lokal langganan kami, Perpustakaan Ganesa. Tanpa pikir panjang, saya langsung mengiyakan. Kenapa tidak? Saya melihat ada banyak manfaat dari acara ini, selain anak-anak sekolah bisa belajar menulis resensi buku, acara ini sedikit banyak juga bisa melatih mereka untuk menulis, menulis apa pun itu.

Untuk materinya, BZee meminjam materi yang dulu pernah digunakan saat Workshop Menulis Resensi dari Hati dari Mas Helvry, kemudian kami sunting dan beri sedikit tambahan demi kejelasan dan kemudahan anak-anak. Selama beberapa hari kami melakukan persiapan. Yang dimaksud dengan “persiapan” di sini adalah saling berkirim surel dan SMS demi mematangkan konsep acara dan materi presentasi. Di hari H-nya, awalnya kami melihat ada banyak yang mendaftar, tapi ternyata yang benar-benar datang lebih sedikit jumlahnya dari yang tertera pada kertas pendaftaran. Tapi tak apa, yang penting adalah antusiasme dari mereka yang benar-benar hadir dan mengikuti acara kami.

Maaf, nama acara sama tulisan di background-nya beda 😀

Setelah acara dibuka oleh pihak Ganesa, BZee langsung memulai dengan menyapa anak-anak dan bertanya apakah mereka pernah mendengar yang namanya resensi. BZee kemudian menjelaskan, dengan bantuan silde PowerPoint yang sudah dibuat sebelumnya, mengenai apa itu resensi dan apa bedanya dengan sinopsis. Penjelasan BZee dilanjutkan dengan alasan mengapa kita menulis resensi, terutama setelah kita selesai membaca sebuah buku. Ada empat poin yang kami tekankan, yaitu untuk melatih kreativitas terutama dalam menulis, memaknai dan menilai buku yang sudah dibaca, dan terakhir untuk merekam buku apa saja yang sudah kita baca. Kalau soal ini, teman-teman narablog pasti juga sudah tahu :). Selanjutnya, saya menjelaskan bagian apa saja yang diulas dalam sebuah resensi (kami bedakan untuk resensi buku fiksi dan nonfiksi), struktur sebuah resensi, media tempat menulis resensi (media massa dan pribadi), saran-saran dalam menulis resensi, dan apa saja yang harus dihindari ketika kita menulis resensi. Setelah saya selesai, BZee memberikan sedikit tambahan dan contoh demi menambal penjelasan saya.

Nah, yang menarik dari acara ini adalah kami juga mengadakan praktik langsung menulis resensi buku di tempat. BZee menyediakan kertas dan pulpen bagi anak-anak yang ikut serta, dan mereka pun kami ajak untuk menuliskan resensi dari buku yang mereka bawa atau yang sudah selesai mereka baca di rumah. Waktu yang kami berikan kira-kira setengah jam saja (karena acaranya sudah molor sekali :p), tetapi kami juga tidak menuntut mereka untuk menulis resensi yang utuh dan bagus. Selain karena keterbatasan waktu, anak-anak yang ikut bisa dibilang masih sangat awam dalam menulis resensi, jadi tidak adil rasanya kalau kami menuntut hasil yang baik dan sempurna. Di tengah-tengah menulis itu, banyak dari mereka yang maju ke depan dan bertanya, “Gimana ini, Mbak?”, atau “Ini bener ga, Mbak?”. Ada juga adik salah seorang peserta yang entah kenapa, mungkin karena saking aktifnya, dia suka maju ke depan cuma buat ngegodain saya sama BZee, hahaha. Yah, anggap saja itu hiburan selingan, ya :D.

Nah, kembali ke praktik menulis resensi. Setelah kami melihat dan menilai satu demi satu hasil tulisan peserta, saya bisa menyimpulkan satu hal: ternyata rata-rata dari mereka masih belum bisa sepenuhnya membedakan antara sinopsis alias ringkasan cerita dengan resensi yang titik beratnya adalah pembahasan dan penilaian terhadap buku yang dibaca. Ada beberapa anak yang sudah bisa menuliskan kekurangan dan kelebihan dari buku yang mereka baca, tapi hanya sebatas pada menuliskan apa yang bagus dan apa yang tidak bagus saja, tanpa memberikan penjabaran lebih detail mengenai mengapa mereka menganggap hal itu bagus atau tidak bagus. Intinya, mereka masih belum bisa memaknai dan menilai sebuah buku. Yah, semoga saja kelak, seiring dengan berjalannya waktu dan bertambahnya usia mereka, mereka bisa lebih pintar memaknai dan menilai buku-buku yang mereka baca, dan bisa menulis resensi dengan lebih baik lagi.

Di akhir acara BZee memberikan hadiah bagi tiga anak dengan resensi terbaik (versi awam, tentunya :D), sedangkan saya memberikan “wejangan” agar mereka tetap berlatih menulis resensi supaya bisa semakin mahir ke depannya. Bagi yang belum dapat hadiah, tidak berarti karya mereka buruk. Mereka hanya kurang dalam satu dua hal dan mesti terus berlatih untuk menambal kekurangan mereka.

Sebagai tambahan, saya ingin mengungkapkan rasa bahagia saya hari Minggu lalu di sini. Karena saya sangat cinta dunia tulis-menulis sejak kecil, saya senang sekali waktu BZee bertanya kepada anak-anak yang ikut serta kenapa mereka mau mengikuti acara kami dan kemudian beberapa dari mereka menjawab, “Karena suka nulis.” Saya jadi terharu. Dan salah satu pemenang hadiah dari kami, yang tulisannya saya nilai, sangat menarik perhatian saya karena untuk ukuran anak SD yang masih kecil sekali, hasil tulisannya sangat luar biasa. Memang, resensi karyanya belum utuh dan belum sempurna, tapi tulisannya sangat mulus dan lancar, seolah-olah dia sudah sangat terbiasa menulis. Belakangan kami berdua baru tahu kalau ternyata dulu dia pernah menang lomba menulis sinopsis di tempat yang sama.

Nah, anak-anak seperti ini tentunya memerlukan bimbingan lebih dari guru dan orangtua mereka masing-masing agar kelak hasrat dan kemampuan menulis mereka semakin tajam dan berkembang. Saya berharap mereka tidak berhenti sampai di sini, saya berharap mereka akan terus banyak membaca dan aktif menulis karena saya yakin dengan begitu insyaallah mereka akan punya masa depan yang cerah, terutama di dunia literasi.

Saya ucapkan terima kasih kepada BZee yang sudah mengajak saya mengadakan workshop menulis resensi ini. Walaupun hanya acara “kecil-kecilan”, tapi menurut saya acara ini penting sekali dan saya merasa terhormat bisa ikut ambil bagian dan “berbagi ilmu”. Saya juga ucapkan terima kasih kepada Perpustakaan Ganesa yang sudah menyediakan tempat dan perlengkapan untuk presentasi bagi kami berdua sehingga workshop dapat berjalan dengan lancar :).

fiction, review

The Old Man and The Sea

old-man-and-sea-2There are only a small boat, an old man, a wide, seemingly endless sea and nothing else. Ernest Hemingway could have created a boring piece unworthy of reading time we try so hard to spare, but The Old Man and The Sea is worth so much more than that. With Hemingway’s deftness in narrative building and the character’s thought-provoking, sometimes funny monolgue, the 1952 classic proves to be a work bigger than its size (at least, the size of my copy). It’s simple but deep and complicated in what it wants to deliver, it has only two human characters but their presence says more than their number, and its conclusion is all but you need to face the fact that life is not what you think it is.

The Old Man and The Sea tells the story of an old fisherman named Santiago who has been through eighty four days without catching a single fish that he is dubbed salao, the worst form of unlucky. But he is far from being disheartened, instead, the bad days only spur him on to go and set sail again on the eighty-fifth day, with what fishing gear he has and no one keeping him company. The boat trip seems to go on as usual and he does what he normally did. He does wish to catch a big fish, that’s what his aim, but he never thought that he would manage to bait a very huge marlin. He is certainly not prepared for it, and he tries with all his might to handle the shocking catch while navigating the wild blue sea at the same time. It’s obviously not an easy task to beat such a large animal and bring it home, especially when it seems to stay stubbornly strong despite the hook stuck inside its mouth and drags the old man along with his boat over la mar. With his only self and his equipment, Santiago has to face the challenges that lie before him before everything he has started ends well as it should. But, will it?

“But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck any more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

The Old Man and The Sea is about struggle and hard work, about dreams and hopes that never cease to flare, about dogged perseverance in trying to achieve our aims. But it is not, unfortunately, about getting them easily. But that’s what Ernest Hemingway wants the reader to see. When Santiago is already halfway toward the end of his taxing journey, fate is suddenly playing tricks on him and he has to wrack his brain, take on patience, and keep calm and sane. Reaching dreams is not a piece of cake, there will be challenges, obstacles, and twisted roads our eyes fail to see laying before us. Determination and patience are not the only qualities, we have also to be smart and emotionally intelligent, and Santiago has shown us he has those. He also shows that, when everything goes wrong and doesn’t end the way he wants it, he still has the humility to accept it.

As a whole, The Old Man and The Sea is merely a simple kind of prose, with conventional, novelistic structure and a lonely man talking to himself almost throughout the plot. But the story is dense and focused and Santiago is a marvelously strong character. Hemingway doesn’t waste his time describing too much; he makes the introduction fast and precise, inviting the reader to the boat trip immediately afterward and follow the character fighting his fight and keeping his chance even if it’s only small and dim. The description of events at sea and the continous monologue cleverly suck the reader into the prevailing situation and make them see, crystal clear, what it’s like to struggle almost to the dying point and end up with merely half success. They result in us vaguely feeling troubled and hurt, unable to accept what reality serves us and yet resigned to acknowledge the truth. The entire story, however, doesn’t leave us hopeless, because Hemingway seems to point out, somewhere in the heart-warming conclusion, that there will always be hopes no matter what.

Though sad, this masterpiece of Ernest Hemingway is really encouraging instead of the opposite. It gives us hopes and reassurance that our belief and hard work will never waste in vain. It might not be a grand creation of a narrative, but it has a punching effect on the reader. More than that, I think it will stay long-lasting as well, as it has always been.

Rating: 3.5/5

fiction, review

The Black Book

black-bookWe might be one of those people in this century whose favorite slogan is “Be Yourself” and who never hesitate to go to any lengths to prove that we are not afraid to show our “true” self. But how true is that self? Or, to be precise, the question should be, “Is it truly ourselves? Or is it someone else we imitate?” The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk may talk about the intense tension between the right and left wings preceding the military coup that took place in the mid 1980’s Turkey, but for the most part it daringly expresses Pamuk’s criticism, as always, of his country’s sense of self. Over the course of the 400-or-so-pages mystery novel, Pamuk doesn’t seem to be able to stop himself from describing how Turkish people, in the modern era, start to leave their “true self” behind and imitate some “other people”. And that, I think, is still relevant to this day, and to anybody on this planet.

Our protagonist here is a lawyer named Galip who lives with his wife and cousin Rüya in an apartment in Nişantaşı, Istanbul. One day he finds her gone, bringing only a few of her belongings and leaving a short letter saying that she will be back soon. But she never comes back, not a day after that, not even two or three days later. Galip starts to have a worrying suspicion that she’s running off to her ex-husband, a left-wing activist she met in her younger days. But then he doubts himself if it all is true and turns to think that perhaps his wife is hiding somewhere with Celâl, her half-brother and Galip’s much older cousin, for apparently Celâl is also missing. Unable to sit still, Galip sets out to go and find them, searching the entire city, following traces and clues, trying to decipher signs and letters while at the same time pointing out how the people of his city, of his nation, have changed their ways and gestures. Between Galip’s slow and meticulous investigation, Celâl’s pieces of writing will appear and tell readers (both of his columns and of the book itself) the way of his thinking and thus adding to all the clues and signs already mounted up to the highest peak. So instead of shedding some light on the case, they only succeed in getting the reader into a trap and making them all the more confused about the nature of mystery.

It is throughout this draining search for meaning of signs that Pamuk keeps hammering into us the importance of asking ourselves, “To be, or not to be, oneself?” The question haunts us every time we turn a page down from the first chapter up to the last. Like the one entitled Bedii Usta’s Children, for instance, where Pamuk, through the writing of Celâl, talks about a mannequin maker who insists on making mannequins in original Turkish poses and refuses to imitate European mannequins. It is less about mannequin making than it is about struggling to be oneself and be happy with it. In a chapter called The Eye, Celâl creates an imaginary eye and pretends that this eye is following and watching him being someone else, because he longs to do so, to be so. In I Must be Myself, a barber comes to the newspaper office and asks him a bothering question, “Is there a way a man can be only himself?”

And this mysterious question doesn’t stop within the personal range, it widens into the range of nationality and nationalism. At some point, a certain character will say, “To live in an oppressed, defeated country is to be someone else.” By this line, Pamuk appears to intend to make a mockery of the state of his country: defeated at the World War I, scrabbled around for a “new country”, a “new self” under the rule of secularism and Westernization just so they can restore their pride and dignity as a nation but without, as it is clearly seen, caring if they have to pay it with their true identity. To make this shame even worse, in a chapter Pamuk writes that “…it was because they had failed to find a way to be themselves that whole peoples had dragged in slavery, whole races into degeneracy, and entire nations into nothingness, nothingness.” It’s as if he wants to give some kind of warning that once a people loses their identity, they will be buried under other civilizations of the world and cease to exist at all.

With The Black Book, Pamuk seems to want to make fun of popular Western detective novels which, to him, serve no purpose but to please only the authors and have an already definite ending without truly complicated clues. This may sound so cocky but I have to say that The Black Book is indeed a mystery novel not like any other. The structure is very different from those usually in the genre. By means of Pamuk’s signature narrative style—a long, winding one—the mystery the story proposes appears to multiply uncontrollably, overlap each other, and then overflow that the deeper we get into it, the more we’re lost in it. The pursuit of clues and the large number of signs scattered along the storyline do not even result in useful information nor lead to the looked-for answer, instead, they give us a glimpse of something that might, or might not, be the motivation of the crime. Even as the book is drawing to a close, the mystery isn’t still revealed and the answer is not fully satisfying, thus producing a much unsettling conclusion.

I cannot say that The Black Book is the best work of Orhan Pamuk, nor can I declare it to be the best one I’ve ever read. During my reading, I felt stuck at times, didn’t know where one point of the plot would take me to, or if it would take me to anywhere at all. But I have to say it’s very interesting, captivating at some point, and, with its rather cliffhanger, very curious to me. And, the best point of this book is I can relate to it, as Pamuk’s works have always made me feel.

Rating: 4/5

fiction, others

Indonesian Local Culture in Literature: Past and Present

Not so long ago I had a chance to read two Indonesian books, one is a classic and one is contemporary, which are heavily laden with cultural values and traditions: Sitti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli, and Puya ke Puya by one of our young potential writers, Faisal Oddang. Interestingly, though written by authors of different generations and talking about different cultures, the two books bring up the same restlessness. And, to me, that’s quite something.

Sitti Nurbaya (1920) is an Indonesian classic known to and hailed as a masterpiece by everyone in the country, even by those who never actually read the book. Every time there’s a young girl being married off to a man she never desires, we, Indonesians, will immediately, and stupidly, say that the girl suffers the same fate as Sitti Nurbaya. But most people get the story wrong, for it’s not about a girl being married off to some old, notoriously rich man her father picks for her. Set in Padang, West Sumatra (the land of Minangkabau people) the novel unfurls the story of a very young girl named Sitti Nurbaya who suffers a tragic fate in which she has to lose not only her love (by her own choice), but also everything she has. She is the daughter of a very rich merchant, befriending, and later falling in love with, Samsulbahri, a young man of noble birth. They could have been married, if not for her father’s sudden bankruptcy after the conflagration that destroys his shops and the evil scheme his competitor plays against him. The situation forces Nurbaya to forget about her dream and give up her happiness for her father instead. In order to help him pay his debts, she ends her relationship with Samsulbahri (without his knowing it) and marries Datuk Meringgih, who is also a bloody rich merchant in their city. She’s not happy, of course, and before she can see it coming, a fate worse than death befalls her and takes her life.

Unlike the classic, which is a tragic story by nature, the contemporary Puya ke Puya is lighter in its tone, though the story itself is all about the pursuit of heaven in the afterlife. The Tempo’s Best Book 2015 relates generally about what the people of Toraja (it derives from the words to riaja, which means “the people from above”) in South Sulawesi have to do for a family member who has just passed away to be able to find their way to heaven. Rante Ralla, a known noble man of his ethnic group, dies a sudden death while drinking ballo, some kind of alchoholic drink from Toraja. Rante’s son, Allu Ralla, refuses to hold rambu solo, a huge and costly funeral for the deceased, for he has no money and his father hardly leaves him a penny. His uncle urges him to sell their family’s land to the mining company that has been sucking their village dry for years so he can have the money to hold a proper ceremony instead of just burying his father in a low-cost, Christian way. It’s not only about money, though, for Allu doesn’t see any point in performing an “old custom” which is not relevant anymore. Thus, he insists on going on “the modern way”.

If we compare the two novels, even if only at a glance, we will see some differences in what they each tell of. While Sitti Nurbaya is a tragic love story, Puya ke Puya is a tragicomedy about death and family affair. More than that, both represent two different cultures in Indonesia, that of West Sumatra, and of South Sulawesi. The focus is different as well. Somewhat unrelated to the main plot, at some point in the narrative Marah Rusli describes how the society of Padang live under the matriarchal system: when two people get married, it is the family of the bride-to-be who provide the dowry and not the man; in a family, it’s not the father who is responsible for his children, but the brothers of the mother; and usually, the inheritance is passed down from mothers to daughters. Funnily enough, though, this rare system doesn’t seem to stop the nature of the society itself from being chauvinistic. I remember Sitti Nurbaya talks about how a woman should get more education, empowering herself instead of just bearing and rearing children, and how women should not marry too young. I assume, looking at the way she says all this, that the people of West Sumatra, whatever their social system is, is still patriarchal by nature and culture.

Puya ke Puya focuses on another matter. It’s not about how people marry, it’s about how people die. Throughout the multi-points-of-view narrative, Faisal Oddang puts his best effort into describing how the people of Toraja try to keep their traditions no matter what and hold a proper rambu solo for dead people, especially the high-ranking ones, so they can go to and arrive in heaven safely. For this journey, the deceased will need at least a hundred buffalos and pigs as their vehicles and supplies, hence the need for their family to hold said ceremony and butcher all those animals for them. It needs a lot of money, a whole lot of money. The problem is, not every time do the family have that much to carry out the expensive tradition but if they fail to do their “duty”, the spirit of the deceased will surely be lost between the heaven and earth.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, despite the differences, Sitti Nurbaya and Puya ke Puya imply the same restlessness. And the nagging question is, do old values and traditions need to change? In Sitti Nurbaya, the protagonist herself and her father and uncle rue the culture they hold and look up to the Dutch people (who occupied Indonesia in the past) for their progressive way of thinking. Baginda Sulaiman, Nurbaya’s father, insists that the local society of Padang should leave their old ways and do better, while her uncle Ahmad Maulana thinks that they should follow the Western path where it leads to the good example and leave it when it’s bad. He also believes that they should dump everything useless about their customs and keep still the good ones. But all these lamentations are a bit subtle and gentle. Oddang is louder and more progressive in delivering his ideas. He wants change, not just suggests it. Through the voice of Allu Ralla, his main character, he doesn’t hesitate to say that he hates the old ways, that the traditions the people of Toraja hold dear are so burdensome and pointless they have to be left behind.

This is very interesting: both classic and contemporary writers despise the old ways, demanding an immediate and progressive change in the local traditions their societies have been holding for generations. Well, I don’t believe the traditions are still there and whole now, but I don’t think the people of West Sumatra and South Sulawesi have left them altogether, either. Even here in Java island, in the small town I live in, people still hold on to their culture. Though, as part of today’s generation, I don’t understand half of it and hate the rest.

So, what do you think? Do the old values and traditions need to change? Or should they stay the same for the sake of identity? Because, what would people be without cultural identity? But, what if all that stuff is not relevant to the fast-moving world anymore?

others

A Glimpse of the Past Year, and Some Reading Plans

Welcome, welcome, 2017! It’s already been 8 days into the new year and it might be a little too late for me to post a recap on my reading and blogging activities of the year 2016. But since this blog has been creepily quiet (quiet?) for some time, I can absolutely not leave it empty still and do nothing to cheer it up a bit for the año nuevo. So now I’ll be doing some recap, and tell you what I have in mind (sort of) for my next reading plans.

Reading and Blogging Recap

2016 was the year of J-Lit and local books for me. I’d set myself to read Japanese literary works for the 2016 Japanese Literature Reading Challenge and managed to accomplish 8 books at the end of the year… by the month of August, I mean. That’s less than what I had expected when I started the reading for said challenge. So many things got in the way: boredom, my rekindled spirit for learning Spanish, a sense of obligation to read The Black Book—one of my must-read books of 2016!—and the failure to finish it before the year ended, Agatha Christie (yes, she and her unputdownable Poirot mysteries!)… Oh, well, whatever my excuses were, I failed. That’s the point. But still, 8 is more or less 27% of the overall 29 books I read last year (it’s actually 31, but I count Murakami’s 1Q84 trilogy as one). As for the local books, I reached the highest peak so far last year, which was 13 books. And that’s 44% of the entirety. It was really something. If you’re someone who scarcely read any works of your own country’s literature and suddenly you can finish 13 books in a year then that’s quite a deal. Trust me.

So, what about the other 8? Well, I read 1 Chinese literary work (I planned to read some Jin Yong but didn’t manage, or wasn’t encouraged enough, to accomplish the mission), 3 English books (all Agatha Christie’s), 3 American fiction books (Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector was the best, such a shame I didn’t make a review of it), and 1 book of contemporary German literature.

wp-1483846758581.jpegNext question: among those 29 books I devoured in my little quiet room, which ones made into my top list? Okay, just because I read 13 Indonesian books that didn’t mean I loved all of them, or at least most of them. No. Only two could make me gape in awe: Hujan Bulan Juni (always! Mr. Damono! Never disappoint me!) and Sepotong Senja untuk Pacarku. I loved M. Aan Mansyur’s poetry books (Melihat Api Bekerja and Tidak Ada New York Hari Ini), but the thing is… I’m not really into poetry (what an excuse! ;p). I wanted to love Puya ke Puya by Faisal Oddang and Eka Kurniawan’s Lelaki Harimau (Man Tiger) because the hype was so high and people were talking about them but no, they didn’t really work for me. Sitti Nurbaya was great, but the narrative wasn’t so very captivating. As for the others… let’s just not talk about them.
The third book which got into my favorite list last year was Christie’s Murder on the Links. It blew my mind that I couldn’t sleep, literally. I’m a sleepyhead and I always go to bed before 10 pm, 9 pm even. But this book had really dragged me way into midnight because I WANTED TO KNOW WHO THE CULPRIT WAS! No wonder people call the Dame a genius. For the fourth and the fifth ones, I must point two classic Japanese works: Rashomon and Botchan.  If you’ve been following me through my rambling on this blog from the very first start then you’ll understand. I like it when an author slap me in the face with the bitter reality of life so I can learn something, and Akutagawa Ryunosuke and Natsume Sōseki could really do that with their respective masterpieces. They’re just incredible.

Phew! That’s the reading. What about my blogging activities? Well, I have to say that I sort of lost my spirit toward the end of the year. Five books went unreviewed: Mysterious Affair at Styles, Tidak Ada New York Hari Ini, Smokol, Dan Sepi pun Menari di Tepi Hari, and The Shell Collector. I read them when I was in the throes of reading frenzy but unfortunately lacked the will to write any reviews. Some of you might wonder why there aren’t any reviews of Puya ke Puya and Sitti Nurbaya then if it’s only those 5 books that went unreviewed. Don’t worry, I’ve planned to make a special write-up on those two in the very, very near future. Just wait.

Oh, that’s not all. There’s something worse: I didn’t do the plan I’d made earlier last year to join the collective BBI blog posts on as many monthly themes as I could manage. I ended up posting articles for the themes of March, May, June, and July only. Four months! Only four out of seven possible monthly themes I could have joined. Blame it on my laziness. The bad news is, this year BBI hold a very, very interesting challenge, Read and Review Challenge 2017, but I don’t know if I’ll be joining it at all.

2017 Reading Plans

I would have asked her what her plans were, and she would have gracefully brushed back her hair and said, “Plans?”—as if that was a word I had invented.

—taken from The Moons of Jupiter

If someone asks me what my plans are for this year’s reading activities I will probably say the same as what Nichola does in Alice Munro’s short story quoted above. But I have some things in mind already. I do. I really do. The thing is, I don’t know if I can, or will, truly pursue them.

1. The first and foremost, I will, no, I have to, finish The Black Book. This is the first time ever, ever, that I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s work without so much interest and enthusiasm. I have started the book in September (that’s four months ago!) and am still now stuck on page 320 (of 466 pages). I will not blame it on some other books I read in between, because honestly, the narrative is so exhaustingly long and tiring. It’s been Pamuk’s signature style actually and I’ve been used to it, and the premise is interesting, too. So there shouldn’t be any reasons for the delay. But… well, I don’t know. Time. Perhaps that’s what I need. And some remembrance of my love for the writer and the country he is living in.

2. Second, I will (have to) read and finish the free books I acquired last year: Eka Kurniawan’s Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, and Mimpi Bayang Jingga by Sanie B. Kuncoro. Free books are not easy to get (that’s a fact, I tell you), and I think it’s time to be responsible for my penchant for free stuff and eat them all.

3. Last year was the year of J-Lit, so I want this year to be a Spanish one. No. I will not spend the whole time reading Spanish/Latin literature only, but I want to know more about it, to get to know deeper about it. I have a stack of Marías, Allende, Gabo, Vargas Llosa, and some other books by various Spanish/Latin writers and I want to devour them one by one. You may guess that it comes as a result of my recent learning Spanish—that’s partly true. You cannot go learning the language without learning the literature. Moreover, it’s about time that I widen my reading horizon, don’t you think?

4. Some say, “When you get what you want, will you be happier?” Yes, that question might as well apply to me. Last year I was lucky enough to get almost all of my wish-list books, but then I just left them and went reading the other books. Why? I have no idea. But this year I’ve promised myself to start reading them. Not all of them, of course. But I’ll try to read some and make reviews of them. Wish me luck 🙂

Ah, well. Those are my plans, if you ask me. A year consists of 365 days but time often flies without our realizing it, and suddenly… puff! The year ends and we get nowhere, we read nothing. I hope it won’t happen (again) and I hope I will have a stronger will to make reviews so I will be able to write better in English and liven up this dull blog.

Bye for now. ¡Feliz 2017 para todos! Happy reading and blogging!

fiction, review

The Girl on The Train

Setelah gemparnya novel Gone Girl karya Gillian Flynn, sebuah novel thriller psikologis yang plotnya digerakkan oleh tokoh utama wanita berkarakter “ganda” dan tidak bisa dipercaya sudut pandangnya, para pecinta novel, khususnya novel berjenis sama, seolah mendapat suntikan candu dengan hadirnya The Girl on The Train karya Paula Hawkins. Bahkan, novel ini sering disebut-sebut sebagai “the next Gone Girl”. Julukan tersebut bisa dianggap berlebihan, tetapi agaknya tidak juga jika melihat alur The Girl on The Train yang juga dibangun dari sudut pandang tokoh wanitanya yang tidak bisa diandalkan. Namun tentu saja, buku ini memiliki gaya penulisan dan cara bercerita yang berbeda, juga kejutan yang mampu membuat pembaca menaikkan alis dan membelalakkan mata.
Rachel Watson mengalami depresi berat setelah bercerai dari suaminya, Tom Watson. Ketidakmampuannya memiliki anak dan kesedihannya yang berlarut-larut karena masalah tersebut menjadikannya seorang pecandu alkohol, yang kemudian membawa pernikahannya pada kehancuran. Ia bahkan dipecat dari pekerjaannya karena mabuk berat dan bersikap tidak sopan saat menemui klien perusahaannya bekerja. Meski begitu Rachel masih menjalani “rutinitas sehari-harinya” seperti biasa: berangkat “kerja” dengan kereta pukul 08:04 pagi dan pulang naik kereta pukul 17:56 sore. Di tengah-tengah perjalanannya itulah ia selalu melewati deretan rumah di jalan Bleinheim, area tempat tinggalnya dulu semasa masih bersama Tom. Bukan hanya bekas rumahnya yang selalu ia lihat setiap hari, tetapi juga rumah yang tak jauh dari sana, rumah nomor 15 yang dihuni oleh sepasang suami-istri yang tidak dikenalnya, yang dalam khayalannya ia beri nama Jason dan Jess. Suatu saat, dari dalam kereta, Rachel melihat “Jess” berciuman dengan lelaki lain, dan ia pun berasumsi bahwa wanita itu telah berselingkuh dari suaminya. Anehnya, besok malamnya wanita itu, yang kemudian diketahui bernama Megan, menghilang. Rachel langsung menyimpulkan bahwa Megan kabur bersama sang kekasih gelap. Ia berusaha memberikan informasi tersebut kepada polisi, tetapi polisi tidak menanggapinya dengan serius karena ia dianggap sebagai “saksi yang tidak bisa diandalkan” mengingat kondisinya yang selalu mabuk. Dan toh ia sering tidak ingat kejadian-kejadian atau apa yang pernah dialaminya akibat kehilangan kesadaran total ketika sedang mabuk. Sialnya, sebenarnya Rachel sedang berada di daerah tempat tinggalnya dulu saat Megan menghilang di jalan tersebut. Namun ia tidak ingat apa-apa yang dapat memberinya petunjuk ke mana wanita itu pergi… dan dengan siapa.

The Girl on The Train ditulis dari sudut pandang tiga tokoh wanita yang berbeda: Rachel yang depresi dan pemabuk, Megan yang liar dan gelisah, serta Anna yang perebut suami orang dan suka berprasangka buruk. Bisa dibilang ketiganya bukanlah karakter yang “baik”, bukan karakter yang likable. Tetapi justru di sinilah, pada karakterisasi inilah, pesan-pesan novel karangan Paula Hawkins ini terletak. Di luar kisah misteri yang disajikan, sang penulis, melalui tokoh-tokoh wanita tersebut dan apa yang mereka alami, menunjukkan betapa wanita harus hidup tertekan di bawah stereotip/beban yang diberikan oleh masyarakat. Jika seorang wanita tidak bisa memiliki anak, maka pasti dialah yang disalahkan. Belum lagi wanita pada umumnya selalu merasa tidak sempurna bila belum/tidak memiliki anak. Hal ini tecermin dalam penuturan Rachel pada salah satu bab, “perempuan masih benar-benar dihargai untuk dua hal saja—tampang mereka dan peran mereka sebagai ibu. Aku tidak cantik dan aku tidak bisa punya anak, jadi apa yang tersisa untukku? Aku tidak berguna.” Pembaca / orang pada umumnya pasti juga akan memandang buruk pada Megan yang liar dan tidak bisa diam di rumah menjadi “istri yang baik”, sementara yang diinginkannya adalah kebebasan, cinta yang tulus dan tidak mencekik, serta kedamaian setelah yang dialaminya di masa lalu. Dan di antara ketiganya, Anna pastilah tokoh yang dianggap paling buruk karena telah merebut suami orang lain. Tidak bisa dibenarkan memang, kecuali jika pembaca mau menyalahkannya pada nafsu dan sang suami yang tidak setia.

The Girl on The Train merupakan karya yang menarik, selain karena dituturkan dari sudut pandang tokoh yang tidak berkarakter baik dan tidak bisa dipercaya serta isu-isu gender yang diselipkan di dalamnya, novel ini sendiri mengusung ide cerita yang cemerlang: benarkah seseorang/sesuatu itu memang seperti yang kita kenal/ketahui? Ataukah sebenarnya selama ini kita hanya mengira-ngira saja? Ide ini, layaknya ide cerita-cerita misteri lainnya, dikembangkan menjadi plot padat yang penuh dugaan dan kecurigaan. Mau tak mau, semakin narasi berjalan maju pembaca menjadi semakin sulit menetapkan siapa yang bersalah dan apa yang telah terjadi. Sayangnya, alur berjalan lambat sehingga ketegangan yang diciptakan penulis terasa seperti kurang greget. Namun itu tidak masalah, karena toh narasi yang dibangun dengan rapi oleh Hawkins tetap membuat pembaca tidak sabar untuk menyelesaikan buku ini dan mengetahui jawaban dari semua pertanyaan. Lagi pula, ada kejutan di akhir cerita. Kejutan yang masuk akal, tapi tetap tak terduga.

The Girl on The Train memang layak dibaca oleh semua pecinta novel misteri, khususnya novel thriller psikologis. Hampir semua unsur di dalamnya, plot, karakter, pesan-pesan dan akhir ceritanya menunjukkan kualitas yang mumpuni dari penulisnya.

RatingL 3.5/5