Book cover image courtesy of Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia. A schoolgirl falls in love with her teacher; a priest defends a rural village and loses faith in God; a woman plans an affair with a married man. At first glance, Saman is a simple love story, keeping with many conventions of that genre. However, as it deals with the thorny issues of religion, sexuality, and governmental oppression, Saman demands a second look. As a result, the book became a magnet for both controversy and acclaim, winning the Jakarta Arts Council Novel Competition, the Prince Claus Award, and selling more than , copies in Indonesia alone. Published two weeks before the fall of President Suharto, Saman describes a world that is constrained by oppression.

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Everything I write here is based on my opinion. The theoretical frameworks I wrote were based on books I read. I actually have read this book years ago and I even read its Italian version during my stay there.

And for the reasons that I do not know, I decided to reread this novel. He wants to be stationed in his hometown, a small region of Prabumulih, South Sumatera while he does not have the permit to do the service in his hometown but he is allowed to pay a visit during the holiday. He then visits his old family house where he recalls the traumatic childhood experience. During his stay, Wis hears the voice of a young lady asking for a help from the wood close by. Wis then helps the lady and finds out that she was Upi.

The people in that village think that Upi is psychologically unstable. Wis is sad and he decides to make her a new better place for Upi to stay. Wis also helps the local people to fight against the big palm tree plantation company who wants to buy the area of the rubber plantation there.

This big company then kidnaps the female and children then places them in a mosque. They later burn the village and put the blame on Wis. They also kidnap Wis in a small hut where Wis is forced to confess that he is responsible for the incident and is a sympathiser of a pro-Indonesian communist party, PKI. Those people later burn the hut where Wis is kidnapped, leaving Wis with a serious injury. Wis was taken to the hospital and later is taken care of by the Catholic sisters. Since then, he changes his identity from Wisanggeni to Saman.

His meeting with the four heroines aforementioned in the previous paragraph is also an interesting part of the novel. Laila who at first falls in love with Wis alias Saman finally has a change of heart to a married man named Sihar. She later follows Sihar to the United States even though she knows that Sihar only sees her as a mistress. However, following the incident and his kidnapping, it is unsafe for Saman to live in Indonesia. Therefore, Cok and Yasmin helped him to leave for the United States.

This later build a connection with Yasmin and Saman. Before leaving Indonesia, Saman and Yasmin commit themselves into a virtual affair by exchanging adulterous emails. The emails that Yasmin and Wis exchanged are ones of the most interesting parts of the novel.

Take a look on what they said. Saman, I have aloerotism. Yasmin, I am jealous. I come too fast. But I suppose if I were to get you pregnant, it would mean I am efficient — capable of getting a task done in a short time.

Yasmin, Climax! Saman, orgasm through penile penetration is not the be-all and end-all. I always have an orgasm when I think about you. I come because of everything you are. Yasmin, maybe our sexual intercourse should remain in our imagination. Virtual sex. Saman, you remember that night, that very night, when all I wanted was to caress your body and watch your face as you ejaculated. I want to come to you. Yasmin, teach me. Rape me! Their virtual convo is interesting to me tho. No…no…no, not because those texts reminds me of those lonely nights weeks ago in city of S——, where I have to work as an Italian interpreter for a cigarette factory.

No…no…not also because sometimes during those nights I have to please myself sexually. And nooo, not because during those nights, King N and I would have to pleasure ourselves through the virtual sex over WhatsApp video call well, it was quite a little bit disappointing and tiring tho! I prefer to do it vis-a-vis like last time we met as I was able to kiss and caress his body and smell him all over while looking at his beautiful big brown eyes! Having him touching me and hearing him moaning are heaven!

Blah, returning to the book…. Why is that so then? Well, see that from the point in which sexuality speaks. Ones can really see that the voices of women expressing her sexual desire is very loud and clear there. Thus, it challenge the notion saying that male are often identified as a sexual predator and women are the prey.

The texts show that in certain points, women are able to become the predator in the sexual departments as well. She is portrayed as a Javanese Catholic yet is immoral prolly according to the Indonesian custom, eh—not to me and a bisexual. When she was young, she realises that she is a bisexual by claiming,.

Other times I am Cangik, whose slow, sluggish voice somehow seems to suit the flabby skin around her armpits. When I was a teenager I always used to dance as Arjuna in the wayang orang and all the girls would idolize me without realizing it, they saw no sign of femininity in me.

But I was also Drupadi who ignites the passion of all five Pandawa brother. Mentioning some of the Javanese leather puppets characters that are Arjuna whom is an androgyny so people say, the implication is that Shakuntala does not recognise herself as a woman but as a fusion between male and female.

She also does not have good emotional bound with her father who sends her away also thus this will later lead her dislike towards men, as she says,. They had an evil father too.

Saman , In other word, her willingness to be a woman does not come within her own conviction as her parents especially her father is the one who forced her to do so. Her father is the first person she knows who made a clear description between the functions of boys and girls.

She points out;. Orang tuaku percaya bahwa pria cenderung rasional dan wanita emosional. Karena itu pria akan memimpin dan wanita mengasihi. Pria membangun dan wanita memelihara. Pria membikin anak dan wanita melahirkan…Aku tak pernah dipaksanya untuk hal yang sama, sebab ia percaya pada hakikatnya aku tak mampu.

Because of that men will lead and women will be the compassionate ones. Men are the ones who develop while women are the caretakers. Men make children and women will nurture them…I have never been forced by him [her father] to do things like my brother because he believes that I am not able to do them. As aforementioned, this kind of low appreciation towards men which holds biased and sexist view towards woman leads Shakuntala to experience her lesbian escapades.

Her first experience of being bisexual starts with a pesinden Javanese traditional female singer who has taught her to dance and to sing. She learns about Serat Centhini, a classic Javanese manuscript which is likely considered as an erotic manuscript, and experiences her first same-sexual interaction. In the end, she understands that she has the tendency of being a bisexual as she states,.

Ia seorang pesinden. Aku pun datang padanya untuk berguru …Tapi ia juga membacakan aku Serat Centhini dan menyanyikan keluhan dengan suara duka …Suatu malam, ketika aku duduk dalam sebuah ruang dan mengagumu dia menyanyi…lelaki dalam diriku muncul dari belakang tubuhku seperti energy yang lepas…Mereka melepas kain masing masing dan berdekatan. It is probably the reason why Ayu Utami takes the U. Therefore, when she meets her Indonesian friends especially Laila, she can relate herself and expresses her love to Laila.

Laila herself is a virgin who is ready to give up her virginity to her lover, Sihar. Once Shakuntala decides to be a lesbian, she also shows a kind of resistance on Indonesian heteronormativity which objects same-sex relationship. After Laila and Shakuntala get closer, Shakuntala believes that she loves Laila.

She thinks that Laila has already free from her curiosity about sex and is ready to be pleased by her before meeting Sihar. Aku tahu kamu belum pernah mengalami orgasme. Juga ketika bercumbu dengannya. Kini tak kubiarkan kamu menemui lelaki itu sebelum kamu mengetahuinya. Sebelum kamu mengenali tubuhmu sendiri.

Setelah ini kamu boleh pergi. Now, I am not going to let you meet that guy before you know about orgasm, before you know about yourself. After that, you may leave]. Saman, Women may have a lesbian potential and that it comes from a desire to allow for the greatest possible variation of female-identified experience , while paying a different kind of respect to lesbian existence — the traces and knowledge of women who have made their primary and erotic and emotional choices for women.

Moreover, Irigaray grants that one way of autoeroticism does fall into the traditional concept of masturbation. She argues:. Woman always remains several, but she is kept from dispersion because the other is already within her and is auto-erotically familiar to her…Woman derives pleasure from what is so near.

She continues that by the virtue of the lips,. Ah, I guess I would have to leave my review for now or I will keep writing on and on. Ah, they are such a disgrace to the woman empowerment…hahah…instead.. And to me, ladies and gentlemen….


Ayu Utami: Saman

It is very engaging and you connect with the protagonists easily. You need some time to orient yourself in the novel as the author Ayu Utami often changes perspective, but that way you are able to relate to some quite diverse characters. There is Laila and her unrequited love for the married Sihar, who fights for the right of his co-workers. There is Father Athanasius, later called Saman, and his commitment to the plantation workers. And there is Shakuntala in New York, who is one of the four friends who have been connected since school: Laila, Shakuntala, Cok and Yasmin. I was kind of unsatisfied, but satisfied to be wanting to read more as well.


Saman by Ayu Utami

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Everything I write here is based on my opinion. The theoretical frameworks I wrote were based on books I read. I actually have read this book years ago and I even read its Italian version during my stay there. And for the reasons that I do not know, I decided to reread this novel. He wants to be stationed in his hometown, a small region of Prabumulih, South Sumatera while he does not have the permit to do the service in his hometown but he is allowed to pay a visit during the holiday. He then visits his old family house where he recalls the traumatic childhood experience.


Saman is an Indonesian novel by Ayu Utami published in It is Utami's first novel, and depicts the lives of four sexually-liberated female friends, and a former Catholic priest, Saman, for whom the book is named. Written in seven to eight months while Utami was unemployed, Saman sold over , copies and ignited a new literary movement known as sastra wangi originally used pejoratively that opened the doors to an influx of sexually-themed literary works by young Indonesian women. Saman deals explicitly with themes of sexuality, taboo for women writers in Indonesia at that time.

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