Headlines

Obituary: ‘Atheist’
writer laid to rest in
Canberra

Renowned writer Achdiat Karta Mihardja died Thursday morning in his adopted hometown of almost 40 years, Canberra, where he was also buried on the same day.

He was 99 and had suffered a stroke in the past few days, embassy officials said. He is survived by his wife Tati Suprapti Noor and four children.

In the last few years Achdiat had lived in a hospice in Canberra. He was first invited in 1961 to be a senior lecturer on Indonesian literature and language at Australian National University.

Of his move to Australia, he once told The Jakarta Post that he was “disappointed” in the first president Sukarno who he said had become “a dictator”.

“We were best friends but not in terms of ideology,” he had said, referring to Sukarno’s campaign of “nationalism-religion-communism”. “Worse, out of the blue he banned my party,” the Indonesian Socialist Party.

Born in Garut, West Java, on March 6, 1911, Achdiat is most known for his 1949 novel, Atheist, considered among the country’s most important post-war literary works.

The story about a pious West Javanese Muslim man confused by his foreign-influenced friends, including a Marxist, was made into a film in 1974 by a well-known director, the late Sjuman Djaja, starring, among others, Deddy Sutomo and Christine Hakim.

Achdiat last visited Jakarta with his wife in June 2005, when he launched his last opus, Manifesto Khalifatullah, which he said was the answer to Atheist.

While in the first novel the main character Hasan fervently questioned God, he said in Manifesto the search was over. He said after the launch on June 7 that his main message was that “God made man to be His representative on earth, not that of Satan”.

He told Tempo magazine that he wished to write his autobiography but this did not materialize.

The former journalist was the recipient of the 1956 national literary award, and the 1971 government’s Arts Award, among others.

He had said his love of literature started at home with the collection of books owned by his father, a bank clerk.

Atheist and his involvement in the establishment of Lekra in 1950, the writers’ organization associated with the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), led some to believe he was an atheist himself.

However, he had also told the Post that things had happened “behind my back”.

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