Ayu Utami, one feminist writer in Indonesia, is not a supporter of Roland Barthes’ theory of “the death of the author”. She said that when she was invited by the committee of KAMPOENG WEDANGAN, one event to encourage business people in Semarang to improve entrepeneurship. The same occasion was also made use to promote local cultures to public.
What made Ayu Utami negate Barthe’s theory? She said that when her first novel SAMAN was translated to a foreign language—let’s say French—she was usually invited to come to that country, to explain the public there what SAMAN was all about. It clearly showed that Ayu was not considered dead after she had her novel published. Proudly, Ayu said that her novel SAMAN had been translated to six foreign languages. Besides French, SAMAN has been translated into English, Dutch, Czech, French, Russian, and I forgot the other one.
Referring to the literary polemic that happened some time ago in the internet, I asked her opinion that for some critics in Indonesia—especially those who come from opposite group of Komnitas Utan Kayu—her novel SAMAN was just rubbish, because it contained many vulgar sexual words. Instead of understanding what Ayu wanted to convey to public, they “killed” Ayu. Even when the polemic was very “hot” in the internet, Ayu did not comment anything. She said that she did not mean to close her mind from any criticism. She also welcomed any criticism when she considered the criticism was “on the right path”. When I mentioned name Katrin Bandel who had a book published to criticize Ayu’s ideas on women’s rights to be not virgin (Ayu said it was the main idea of SAMAN), Ayu did not comment anything. Instead she said:
“So far, there have been two criticisms on SAMAN that I consider eligible to pay attention. One of them is from a feminist from Australia. She said that no matter what, SAMAN still talked about men’s superiority on women. Among some leading characters in SAMAN, the most conspicuous one is SAMAN, a male character. Saman is the hero for the villagers in one plantation in Sumatra; he belongs to public creature. On the contrary, the female characters (Laila, Yasmin, Cok, and Sakuntala) are just decorations in the story.”
By the way, the main reason why the committee of KAMPOENG WEDANGAN invited Ayu Utami was to share her experience in writing novels; how to be an entrepeneur by being a writer. She said that one step someone must undergo before being an author is being a writer.
LL 15.35 221207