“Batavia 1936” by Widya Harun

I completed reading ‘Batavia 1936’ a few days ago. In case you haven’t read my previous post about the novel,  ‘Batavia 1936’ is the first long novel in Bahasa Indonesia that I read after like, four years. So long..

I like the book at first. Because it takes historical background in Batavia, the old name of Jakarta before Indonesia gains independence from the Japanese troops in 1945. The author takes a bold move in writing the sort of novel because not many Indonesian readers prefer reading this type of book where you have to read footnotes about old buildings, history about certain places in Batavia at that time. Your brain works twice, enjoying the story while learning about history.

While my curiosity about how major characters get involved in national movement against the Dutch troops dim as they cease doing that, I keep reading the book because I expect something romantic out of the story between Kirani and Hans van Deventer. And obviously, I still wish I can let my imagination running wild when the author describes places at that time. I love the parts when the writer depict places and people when the story takes place.

Kirani, a young, beautiful and rich girl coming from a Moslem wealthy family namely Rijkaard, falls in love with Hans, a Dutch-descent doctor. Kirani is a brave, strong-willed person while Hans is quite the opposite. He is shy, poetic, mellow partly because of his sorrow family background. His mother, his past only friend, passes away when he is still a boy. He is the son of his mother, a Javanese moslem and his father’s brother. His biological father rapes his mother out of hatred when his mother is about to be married as the fourth wife of a local badass man.

His biological father dies shortly. Then Hans becomes the son of his current father, Phillip van Deventer, who is actually in love with his mother. Hans and Phillip are under the same roof but they are emotionally apart because Hans is not his biological son. Their relationship gets so much closer when Hans tells Philip that he is really fond of one of the Rijkaard’s daughters. Hans never mentions her name unknowingly that there are two women in the family: Kirani and her older sister, Kirana.

Shortly to put, Hans propose the wrong woman. Instead of Kirani, the Rijkaard family believes he wants to marry Kirana as she is the one who tells her feeling to her mother, Hillailah.

Hans, a weak man by the heart, gets fainted on the day of the proposal. He gets sad, even emotional. Thankfully, he has Syam, the only good friend that he has who is also in love with Kirani. While Kirani slowly moves on from the fate that her sister is going to have the man she loves. Hans, on the other hand, always wishes the wedding will never happen.

His wishes come true but on ways he never expects them to be.

A thief gets into the house of the Rijkaard family , injuring Kirana and causing Hillailah gets a heart attack then dies suddenly. The thief is later known as Mastur, the man whose sick child is cured by Hans. He does that by intention because he wants to steal the ring that Hans gives to Kirana, his future wife. Mastur knows that Hans get depressed because of proposing the wrong woman. Mastur does this to pay his debt of his son. The purpose that is actually in favour of Hans yet that turns out uglier than anyone can imagine.

Kirana is in her deathbed because she falls off the stairs. Their planned wedding is canceled. Kirani and Hans get closer as days go by as they spend much time nurturing the ill woman. Syam, on the other hand, keeps supporting Hans.

Then what happens next is just too diverted.

Hans departs for Surabaya to work as a volunteering doctor who help people suffering from malaria. Deep down in his heart, Hans wants to die there. This is known by Syam. So Syam asks for the help of his friend in Surabaya. Hans is transported back to Jakarta in very critical condition. Syam’s pal says Hans gets infected by malaria and doesn’t want to be cured.

What happens by the end of the novel? For most people it’s heartbreaking but for me it’s so silly.

Hans want to marry Kirana who is still in her comma because he dissapoint her. They do get married as they are dying. Kirani, who is seen loving Syam, seems happy with the marriage. Yet Kirani and Syam don’t know their feelings each other, too.

So the novel ends.

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