Durga/Umayi (Witch/Goddess) - A Novel

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By Y.B. Mangunwijaya. Translated by Ward Keeler

The scathingly satirical and hilarious novel, first published in Bahasa 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 accomodation and does very well for herself. The price she pays is the loss of her identity, her connection to 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 University of Texas, Austin. He received the Harry J. Benda Prize in 1991 for his book Javanese Shadow Plays, Javanese Selves.

Publication Year: 2004
224 pages, 216mm x 142mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-297-1, Paperback

NUS Press and University of Washington Press