Thursday, January 5, 2012

Islamic Fiction Dominates Indonesian Novels

Islamic Fiction Dominates Indonesian Novels


Indonesian novels is among the liveliest in southeast Asia. So far there are many genres like love story, religious, martial art, anti colonialism etc. Over the past ten years there are two different or even conflicting genres in Indonesia. One is Islamic fiction and the other is erotic fiction. These days there are two novels that become best seller in Indonesia, and all of them belong to Islamic fiction. Ayat ayat cinta (Verses of Love) and Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Squad) are best sellers far above erotic novels. Ayat ayat Cinta is written by Habiburrahman el Shirazy, an alumni of Al Azhar University, Cairo. Laskar Pelangi is written by Andrea Hirata, an employee of Indonesian telecommunication company.

The story of Ayat Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love) revolves around Fahri, an Indonesian student who studies in Al Azhar University, Egypt. Fahri is involved in a complicated love story with Maria, a coptic Egyptian girl and Aisyah, a Turkish-German girl. Nurul, an Indonesian girl who studies in Egypt loves him too. And so does Noura, another Egyptian girl. By the end of the story there is an Islamic solution to the conflict. This novel has been made as a film and it reached a great success. The theme song by the same title also became a top hit for several moths in Indonesia.

Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Squad) is a novel about the writer’s chilhood memory when he studied in elementary school. He was a student of a poor Muhammadiyya elementary school in the village of Gantong, in the island of Belitong, close to the island of Sumatra, in the western part of Indonesia. The story is about how he tried to overcome his difficult situation with the help of his great, loving teacher, Mrs Muslimah. It is apparent that the writer pays great respect for her. The movie also achieved a great success. Millions of Indonesian people have watched it in movies and at home.

Ketika Cinta Bertasbih (When Love Praise God) is another novel writen by Habiburrahman el Shirazy that become best seller. Today the production process for the film is going on. Maybe this year it will be launched in Indonesia. People are sure that it will also achieve success.

The sequel written by Andrea Hirata are : Sang Pemimpi (the dreamer), Edensor and Maryamah Karpov. They also a kind of the writer’s recollections of his student days but then they are written as literary works. So they are based on true events but not just real journal. They are also best sellers although their sales are still below Ayat Ayat Cinta.

Amazingly Islamic fiction sell much much better than erotic ones. Both their novels and their movies are very successful. Erotic novels, on the other hand, are succesful in novels only. Nobody wants to make movies of their novels.

I believe that the dichotomy of literary genres in today’s Indonesia is a reflection of a cultural and political dichotomy. In the near future maybe Indonesia will face a situation similar to Turkey where there is a friction between the Muslim and the secularist.