#35 Burung-Burung Manyar

6 minutes

Judul : Burung-Burung Manyar (Edisi Revisi)
Penulis :  YB Mangunwijaya
Penerbit : Penerbit Buku Kompas
Tahun cetakan Pertama: 2014
Halaman :  320 halaman
Rating: 5/5

As my commitment to the world of literacy, I always try to write reviews of books I read in English using Bahasa Indonesia. And since I am going to review an Indonesian book, I will deliberately review the book in English. 

Burung-Burung manyar is a novel by Y.B. Mangunwijaya which was first published by Djbatan Publishers, Jakarta, in August 1981. The novel is quite long with a thickness of 320 pages. In the front page it is stated that the book is a romance. According to Mangunwijaya’s confession, the book was finished when he was 50 years old. Beside an author himself, he was an architect and also Romois father in Javanese terms. Or the calling title given by Catholics in several regions in Indonesia to Catholic priests (pastors).

Anak Harimau dan Burung Kul—The Tiger’s Cub and the Sooty-headed Bulbul

At first, Larasati or Atik did not like Teto, who they considered cruel because they liked to slingshot birds. Atik is the only daughter of a gentle biologist and Teto is the son of a strict KNIL commander, Kapten Barabajuki. Their childhood encounter ended in distaste.

When the Japanese took over the Indies, and Teto’s father was tasked with spying on the Japanese capture, the Atik family’s house became a place of refuge for Teto and his mother. Teto and Atik slowly became close like siblings. When Teto’s mother finally disappeared like his father, the Ananta family―Atik family, took care of Teto like their own child.

However, Teto revenge had already burned toward Japan—also toward the independence guerrillas, whom he considered only fawning over the feet of the Japanese troops for the sake of promises of independence. He then left the Ananta family home and joined the KNIL, like his father before him, under the command of Major Verbruggen, a man who was ―and still is―in love with Teto’s mother. On the other hand, the Ananta family has been on the side that defends and dreams the independence, a side that Teto hates. Atik’s father joined the underground while Atik became secretary to Syahrir, Indonesia’s first Prime Minister. This automatically makes Teto and Atik in the opposing camps, although it cannot be denied, the two of them now love each other. Both of them yearn to bring their lover to the ‘right’ side. But in the end, history determines the end of their love story.

Ayam-ayam di dalam kandang—The Chikens in a Coop

I always love Indonesian literatures, especially the classics, and of course this book is no exception. reading literature also means we read culture. The deeper discussion of certain events, the deeper the understanding it wants to instill in the reader. It means, there is something that the author wants to convey to us. I realize that even so YB Mangunwijaya himself was a Romo, what is written here is purely about humans. I really admire Romo Mangun’s skill in telling his characters ―Teto who is stubborn and arrogant but honest, Atik who is gentle and intelligent, Jana who is calm and nrimo ―the art of fate acceptance. To be honest, I got annoyed at Teto a lot because of his attitude that seemed to sneer at his own people. But then there’s a sentence that sticks out to me:

“Sungguh kuli dan babu bangsa ini. Dan lebih lagi kau, Teto. Ya, itu benar. Sudah lama aku sadar, bahwa sikapku yang begini ini sebetulnya ekspresi maksimal dari kekulian bangsaku.”

If you already know about Pramoedya Anantatoer, Romo Mangun is the other side of Pram, and I finally know why. In his book, Pram always touts struggles and movements on behalf of the people. Meanwhile, Romo Mangun shows the other side of the people’s movement with the thesis: Is it true that the struggle for independence is for the people? Because even though he said it was for the sake of the people, what happened on the ground was that the poor would still be the poor. The fighters who purportedly defended the interests of the people actually extorted the people, and in fact there were many people who, if they were allowed to choose, would prefer being controlled by the Netherlands in peace rather than having to go through a period of upheaval.

Burung-burung manyarThe Weaverbirds

There are three parts in the books which are following events experienced by the main character, Setodewa. There are also those who call this book a historical romance, my favorite typical books, perhaps because it contains events that have historical value or are closely related to historical events. Romo Mangun use a time setting that has something to do with history, such as during the Dutch, Japanese and Allied colonization. Likewise, the setting of the place refers to the real setting that played a big role in the colonial period, such as Batavia, Yogyakarta, and the Dutch East Indies. The names of the figure that appeared were factually recorded in history, such as Syahrir. Thus, the content of the novel is related to concrete and factual historical events, namely the arms struggle and diplomacy between the Dutch and Indonesian during the War of Independence.

I just realized that the book had already been translated into some languages, English, Japan, and Dutch. This one is one of the best classic that Indonesia should be really really proud. In this book, Romo Mangun invites us to look at the two opposite sides of humans: those who want and fight for change, and those who are comfortable with the existing system and try to maintain it. This struggle between the two sides of humanity occurs everywhere, between those who are revolutionaries and those who yearn for stability, and we can still meet them in everyday life. And this is not on the basis of right-wrong. Not always what is revolutionary is right and what is remaining silent without struggles is wrong, or vice versa. Through Teto and Atik, we are invited to see that in the end, the issue of change or stability in a country is determined not because one ideology is more appropriate than another, but because of movements in political currents, the needs of the times, and the government’s diplomatic strategy.



One response to “#35 Burung-Burung Manyar”

  1. Titik Asa Avatar

    Lihat buku “Burung-burung Manyar”, saya pernah baca novel ini…menarik kisahnya…
    Ternyata masih tersimpan di rak buku, jilidnya berwarna merah, cetakan ke enam, Agustus 1993.
    Pengen baca lagi ah sambil ngabuburit…



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