Transcending fiction & non-fiction
Paper Edition | Page: 6
As readers, we slip into a particular mode when reading a work of fiction.
W e tend to open up, allowing the contents of what we read to flow into our subconscious. When reading non-fiction writing on the other hand, we usually take the information into our conscious mind for synthesis and reflection.
There is a certain thrill, therefore, when we begin to wonder as we read, whether we are transcending the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. That is, in general, one of the sensations you get when reading Linda Christanty’s writings.
In her new collection of short stories, Seekor Anjing Mati di Bala Murghab (A Dog Dies in Bala Murghab), Linda takes you to faraway lands: Japan, Afghanistan, Morocco and Germany.
Yet, you always have the feeling that you are merely hopping distance to Indonesia, and if you let your subconscious absorb a little more, you find that you are never far from Bangka, Linda’s native homeland.
The state of the characters plays an important part in the stories. While the plot is neutral or even slightly cheerful, like in “Pertemuan Atlantik” (An Atlantic Meeting), their presence in a foreign land and a sense of alienation add twists to the stories.
Alienation also appears like a cloak worn by a secondary character, hovering in the background, occasionally threatening to come to the fore, in “Kisah Cinta” (Love Story).
Throughout all the stories, Linda’s acute power of observation comes through, and serves as an inner light to highlight the leitmotif, which is usually crowded off center stage by a red herring and surrounding scenes.
This feature is presented powerfully in the title story Seekor Anjing Mati di Bala Murghab.
There does not seem to be any deliberate attempt to strum your heartstrings. The stories are told in a matter-of-fact manner.
The initial effect might be somewhat jaunty but the significance will inevitably hit you like a delayed shock, such as in the third story “Karunia dari Laut” (Gifts from the Sea).
As a writer, Linda assumes a male narrator’s psyche with ease, and the story still moves, even through potentially tricky plots like in “Jack dan Bidadari” (Jack and Angel), where the male main character tries to disguise his battered-partner syndrome to those closest to him.
In the second story “Zakaria”, Linda excels in understated humor when telling the story of a community bravely living amid the long-standing battle between a military government and a rebel militia. It is a playful take on Aceh, during the conflict between Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government.
The last story, “Catatan tentang Luta, Manusia yang Hidup Abadi” (Notes about Luta, the Immortal Man), is quintessentially Linda Christanty. As you read, you become fully aware you have stepped over the dividing line between fiction and non-fiction. It is like seeing a colorful canvas depicting factual scenes.
The 10 stories in the book bring you amusement, palpable sadness, a feeling of hopelessness in the face of a desperate situation and pity.
The collection is best read one at a time, so each story can be savored privately. Though if you like being successively overcome by a variety of feelings, the book can be read in one go.
Seekor Anjing Mati di Bala Murghab (A Dog Dies in Bala Murghab)
Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2012