Thu, 30 Mar 2000

Kirjomulyo, a great literary man

By Tarko Sudiarno

YOGYAKARTA (JP): His works abound in books and his name appears in literary compilations for his outstanding contribution to Indonesian literature. But Kirjomulyo remained an extremely low-profile figure until he died in January.

Born in Yogyakarta in 1930, and a prolific writer of the 1950s, Kirjomulyo was regarded as being of the same caliber as poet Chairil Anwar or modern poet-playwright WS Rendra.

Early this month, his fellow writers observed the 40th day of his death with a modest ceremony at the conference hall of Kedaulatan Rakyat newspaper building in Yogyakarta. A play titled Senja Dengan Dua Kelelawar (A Dusk with Two Bats) that Kirjomulyo wrote in the 1950s was performed as a tribute.

The play was performed very well by Teater Latar, albeit the stage was extremely simple -- as if to allude to Kirjomulyo's lifestyle.

Kirjomulyo's works have been widely recognized as being of a high standard but it remains a mystery why so few of them have been documented. Few critics gave him their attention, as did publishers of his time.

He was so media-shy that rarely did his name appear in the mass media. Unlike his fellow writers, he almost never appeared in public. Nevertheless, his death surprised the literary world here and his name and works suddenly received wide publication.

His most productive years were the 1950s, when he wrote more than 100 poems and 40 scripts. His poems include Lembah Batu Pualam (Marble Valley) and Roman Perjalanan (Voyage of Romance). Among his most well-known scripts are Nona Maryam (Miss Maryam), Penggali Kapur (The Limestone Miner), Penggali Intan (The Diamond Miner) and Tujuh Orang Tahanan (Seven Detainees).

Kirjomulyo's compilation work, Lawan dan Karibmu (Your Enemy and Best Friend, 1967) is considered his last and best piece.

Observers say Kirjomulyo was too low profile, that he hid from the media. To his dying day he did not care very much about his works or about himself.

In a 1989 article in Basis literary magazine, writer Linus Suryadi AG portrayed Kirjomulyo as a poet who did not pay much attention to his own creative works or his surroundings.

He was known as a productive poet and scriptwriter, but he did not want to document his works.

"If there was no HB Jassin, who documented his works, it would be difficult to identify Kirjomulyo," said Linus, the author of Pengakuan Pariyem (Pariyem's Confession).

Linus added that Kirjomulyo was not a writer from the 1950s put forward by Indonesian poetry critics, who did not show much interest in his works. Although his contributions to Indonesian modern poetry were clear and could be proven, they remained vague due to the lack of critical attention toward his works.

And the life this Yogyakarta writer led was different from colleagues such as Ayib Rosidi, Rendra, Ramadhan KH and Subagio Sastrowardojo.

After "leaving" the literature world to the day when he died, Kirjomulyo was a figure of great concern. He did not create any new literary works or have a steady job. He also moved from one place to another.

A Yogyakarta cultural observer and journalist, Hariyadi SN, cited that Kirjomulyo once said he used Javanese philosophy Kridha Lumahing Asta, which means living one's life with the support of others. "It could be said that Kirjomulyo begged to support himself.

"After running a cultural magazine published by Yogyakarta's Department of Education and Culture, Kirjomulyo focused on research about ancient kingdoms in the country. His obsession was to reveal the thin red line of seven kingdoms here," Hariyadi said.

He said Kirjomulyo's research methods were unique. He did not use common research methods but used his own, such as collecting broken pieces of pottery along the Begawan Solo river or taking trips that he believed useful for his research.

Whether his method worked or not, Kirjomulyo was known as a noted literary figure in the country, which could be seen from the presence of the many literary figures and noted artists paying their last respects at his burial service.