HB Jassin dies of stroke

JAKARTA (JP): Hans Bague Jassin, the ""Pope of Indonesian literature"", died on Saturday at the age of 83.

Jassin died at Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital almost 12 hours after suffering a stroke.

The health of the noted literature documentarian and critic had been deteriorating for some time after five previous strokes.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, after paying his last respects at Jassin's residence in Tanah Tinggi, Central Jakarta, lauded him as a ""literary giant"".

""HB Jassin is a giant figure of Indonesian literature. I was brought up with his writings and I respected him,"" Abdurrahman said.

Later in the afternoon Jassin was given a full state burial at Kalibata Heroes Cemetery, South Jakarta, after earlier being taken to the HB Jassin Documentation Center at Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center, where hundreds ofpeople prayed for him.

Many literature figures such as Ajib Rosidi, Taufik Ismail and Goenawan Mohamad were seen at the mass prayer.

The scene at the burial was moving.

Jassin's daughter, Helena Magdalena, wept throughout the ceremony, which was attended by some 200 people.


Jassin health had been deteriorating since 1996. Since then he had all but suspended much of his work. He was mostly confined to a wheel chair.

It was after this fifth stroke that his contributions to Indonesian literature started to peter out.

At the time he was translating four books into Indonesian -- 1001 Hari: Kisah-kisah Parsi (1001 Days: Persian Stories), Jalaluddin Rumi, Percakapan Burung-burung (Bird Talk) and Kasidah (Chant).

The work was then continued by his associates.

Percakapan Burung-burung is completed but has yet to be published and thetranslation of Kasidah remains unfinished. Only the first volume of 1001 Hari: Kisah-kisah Parsi has been completed and published.

In the last year of his life he spent most of his time with his third wife, Yuliko Wilhem, and one of his nieces, Rita Jassin, who assisted in his efforts to remain active.

Jassin left behind four children from his three marriages: Hanibal, Mastinah, Yulius and Helena Magdalena.

Jassin was divorced from his first wife Tientje van Buren, while his second wife Arsiti died in 1962. He married Yuliko, who is 26 years his junior, 10 months later.

Born on July 31, 1917, in Gorontalo, North Sulawesi, he was initially named Hamzah. His nickname was Jamadi.

Jassin once said that his interest in literature was passed on to him by his father, who was an avid reader.

He began to write earnestly in the mid 1940s.

His compassion for literature led him to work as an editor for Mimbar Indonesia magazine in 1947. He later moved to Zenith, Kisah and Sastra magazines.

Jassin graduated from the University of Indonesia and between 1958 and 1959 studied at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, the United States.

In 1975, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the School of Literature at the University of Indonesia.

In 1978, Jassin was embroiled in controversy for his translation of Al Qur'an Bacaan Mulia (The Koran, the Noble Book).

Many questioned his competence in translating the Islamic holy book, doubting his knowledge of Islam and the Arabic language.

Unfazed, he followed it up with another controversial translation, Al-Qur'an Berwajah Puisi (The Koran in Poetry).

Another of his noted translations was Multatulli's Max Havelaar.

Jassin initially desired to become writer and poet, but to many of his contemporaries his greatest legacy was as a literary documentarian.

His best known works reflect this: Angkatan 45 (1945 Generation), Kesusastraan Indonesia Modern dalam Kritik dan Esei (Indonesian Modern Literature in Criticism and Essays) and Sastra Indonesia sebagai Warga Sastra Dunia (Indonesian Literature as a Member of World Literature).

Generations to come will feel the impact of his contributions not only through his work but also through the HB Jassin Literary Documentation Center. Established in 1976, the embryo of the center was Jassin's own collection which he had assembled since 1940.

It now boasts a catalog of some 30,000 books and magazines.

As a social and literary critic, Jassin was also not free from political controversy.

He was given a one-year prison sentence to be followed by a two-year probation period in 1971 because as editor of Sastra literary magazine he refused to reveal the identity of an anonymous writer who wrote a story which was considered by the court as blasphemous.

While his writings may not be in the highest annals of Indonesia literarywork, his contribution to the field is second to none.

It is Jassin who will be remembered for saving Indonesian literature for the next generation.

As celebrated writer Taufik Ismail said: ""From his hands, Indonesian literary men were born."" (dja)

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