Sun, 11 Nov 2001

On the Shelves

Perang dan Kembang (War and Flowers); By Asahan Alham; Pustaka Jaya, 2001; 484 pp; Rp 39,000

As its title suggests, this is a novel about war. Unlike most war novels by Indonesian authors, this one is not about a war in Indonesia. Instead, it offers a graphic description of the Vietnam War.

It is interesting to note that the writer himself took part in the war. Therefore, the book is a combination of autobiography and fiction.

As also suggested by the title, the main character of the novel, which is written in the first person, falls in love with a number of girls he meets while serving in Vietnam. So we have these various love stories involving an Indonesian soldier in Vietnam, playing out against the background of the war.

The main character falls deeply in love with Kim, whom he meets while, strangely enough, digging a hole. The call of duty separates them but destiny finally brings them together again, though not before the main character has had a number of affairs with other women.

At one point, he travels to China, where the Cultural Revolution is raging. While in China, he meets Sobron, his older brother who lives in self-exile in Paris.

After returning to Vietnam, the main character reunites with Kim, and the pair get married and head off for Europe and a new life.

The author of this book, Asahan Alham, formerly Asahan Aidit, is the younger brother of the chairman of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party, DN Aidit, who was executed after the Sept. 30 coup attempt. He holds a master's degree in philology from Lomonosov University in Moscow and a doctorate in literature from Hanoi State University.

-- Lie Hua