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Durga Umayi: A Novel Paperback – Apr 1 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (April 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295983922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295983929
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 1.3 x 21.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 268 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,117,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


This is easily one of the most inventive, urgent and passionate texts I've read. It's also a testament to what skilled translators, the neglected heroes of the world literature scene, can achieve. Hats off to you, Ward Keeler.

(Ann Morgan

The exuberance and the deep feelings of this well-translated tour de force should help push this book into the hands of readers from many backgrounds. Father Mangunwijaya's novel escapes many strictures.

(Journal of Asian Studies)

The exuberance and deep feelings of this well-translated tour de force should help push this book into the hands of readers from many backgrounds.

(The Journal of Asian Studies)

Ward Keeler's brilliant translation of this 1991 Indonesian classic could not be a more impressively persuasive interpretation..

(Multicultural Review)


Durga/Umayi provides a fascinating window on Indonesian politics and culture, in addition to being a particularly interesting example of Indonesian literature. Its descriptions of violence and the effects of it on ordinary people are truly outstanding. Its uniquely Indonesian style of magical realism, and the feminist twist, give it an added attraction in the context of contemporary literature.

(Dr. Patricia Henry, Northern Illinois University)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9da125a0) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dfab87c) out of 5 stars Living Life at the Center of the Swirl Oct. 24 2004
By C. Thresher - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing read. I thought I was lost by the end of the first chapter, but soon realized I was actually bobbing right next to the unseen narrator and main character: we were all swept into the strong waters of recent (1960s-present) Indonesian history.

This is the story of an ordinary woman drawn by fate to witness and participate in a string of delirious events that unfold after Indonesia's independence from the Dutch colonial powers. This woman, Auntie Wi, Madame Nussy, Sis Tiwi, (whatever she decides to call herself) spirals around the world of partisan politics, financial corruption, and unsatisfied love with a charmed and resiliant spirit, but in the end finds herself yearning for some imagined dream of a simpler life. The surprising end to her unfinished tale haunted me for days. Did she finally find some happiness in accepting her place in history? Did she discover how to clutch the worst of her desires while yet hanging on to a shred of sweet memory? Would her friend the historical microphone ever come back to hear her thoughts?

The work is written in a style that reminds me some oral epic overheard on a long bus ride, where details and names are spun out with dizzying relentlessness. Other authors have used this consciousness streaming mode to tell their tales, but there is something intoxicating here about the cadences and rhythms of the words. Here is a refreshing take on a topic that many of us know little about, written in a form that left me buzzing with thoughts each time I reluctantly put the book down. The translator assists at all turns here, giving the reader an ample introduction to the story and the recent history of Indondesia, but not overwhelming the tale; footnotes are provided where clarification is needed.

All in all, a stunning work.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d644c48) out of 5 stars A Surreal Indonesian Tale Oct. 28 2004
By Michael McCright - Published on
Format: Paperback
Y.B. Mangunwijaya's novel "Durga/Umayi" tells the engaging story of a woman's ongoing personal transformation while the country she lives in moves past colonialism into independence. The book works well on two levels. First, as a literary novel filled with vividly drawn characters--especially Iin (aka Punyo Iin Sulinda Pertiwi Nusamusbida), the not-very-sympathetic protangonist--that contains colorful descriptions of the sometimes surreal situations they find themselves in; it is told in a most unorthodox way. Suggestions made by translator Ward Keeler in his introduction helped greatly in knowing how to approach the text.

Second, "Durga/Umayi" is an excellent introduction to the modern history and culture of Indonesia, particularly for someone who knows little about Southeast Asia. Again, Dr. Keeler's introduction and footnotes are an invaluable aid.

Mangunwijaya's narrative style and the surreal nature of his novel were a bit challenging at first, but after a few pages it became an engaging read. "Durga/Umayi" is a fascinating story told with great wit and empathy, and well worth reading.