Interrogating Indonesian New Order’s Narrative of Gestapu: The Leftist Nobles and the Indonesian Communist Party in Umar Kayam’s Stories

Paulus Sarwoto: Universitas Sanata Dharma



Although the atrocity around the 1965 coup—better known as Gestapu, Gestok or G 30 S PKI in Indonesia—has been continually on the international humanitarian spotlight, its literary representation in Indonesia has been minimal. The strong hold of the New Order regime and their residue in the current political system must have something to do with this. Among a few vernacular writers coping with the aftermath of the tragedy but is less discussed as such is Umar Kayam. The four texts analysed in this article, “Bawuk,” “Musim Gugur Kembali ke Connecticut,” Para Priyayi and Jalan Menikung: Para Priyayi 2, interrogate the complexity of Gestapu victimization and narrative set by the New Order. The texts reflect the failure of the Javanese nobles (priyayi) in revitalizing their role as political leaders in the face of corrupt political system. Instead of resisting the corrupt regime, they play along in the political game to gain personal benefits. The Javanese nobles siding with the oppressed by joining the Communist Party’s affiliated organizations are ostracized and marginalized. Despite Kayam’s sympathetic representation of some communist figures in his fiction, his general representation of communist ideology is ambivalent. His figuration of communist poets simply as uncritical serfs of ideology, for example, shows his bias towards accepting the New Order cultural narrative. Despite his sympathetic description of those innocently accused of treason following Gestapu 1965, Kayam still portrays communism as an evil and foreign ideology much in the same way that the New Order regime had been narrating it.


Lekra, priyayi, persecution, postcolonial, third space, subalternization

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

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Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
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Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
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Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
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University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
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Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
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Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
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University of Cape Town (South Africa)
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University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
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University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
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University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
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Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
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Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)