Postmodernism and how Ajidarma used it against the New Order

Tulisan di bawah ini adalah penggalan dari salah satu bagian di dalam Tesis Strata-2 karya Andrew Charles Starr Fuller, BA, PGDip dari Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies Arts Faculty The University of Melbourne. Alih alih untuk menyelaraskan dengan nama blog, kami mengambil bagian yang berjudul The Case of Sukab. Terima kasih untuk Andy Fuller atas keaktifannya di mailing-list dan ijin yang diberikan untuk mempublikasikan hasil karya nya.Anda dapat memperoleh salinan lengkap Tesis ini dalam bentuk file .pdf dengan melayangkan email langsung ke penulisnya di

The Case of Sukab

Another example of where Seno has problematised ideas regarding character, is through his frequent use of the name ‘Sukab’. Other names that Seno uses often are ‘Sarman’ and ‘Alina’ (for a female character). As ‘Sukab’ is not a standard Indonesian name it has come to be identified with Seno’s fiction. The sense of Seno’s ‘ownership’ of this name is evident in the adverse reaction to Agus Noor’s use of it, after he published a short story with the title ‘Sukab’. <!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[204]<!–[endif]–> Below, I will discuss how Seno has used the name Sukab for a specific type of character, as well as to question received ideas of where a character begins and ends.

Sukab is identifiable as a ‘common person’ or a ‘layman’ (seorang tokoh rakyat) – he is not wealthy and he struggles in many aspects of daily life. He neither performs extraordinary things nor thinks extraordinary thoughts. However, through the use of characters called Sukab, Seno is able to engage with ideas and problems which are common or relevant to much of Indonesia’s populace. Although, Sukab is part of a ‘simple’ world, and is himself uncomplicated, many of the Sukab stories are imbued with understated philosophy. These short stories might not be the magnum opus that will guarantee Seno’s acknowledgement as a great writer, however they give readers an idea of the way in which he believes in the plurality of the self and the multiple possibilities for one character. On Sukab, Seno has written, ‘in fiction Sukab is not the name of a character. Sukab is just a name that I use for all characters, just because I am too lazy to think of a name that suits the characters so that it is convincing and so on.’<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[205]<!–[endif]–> With slight contradiction he has also written (in the same text), ‘that name just comes to mind every time I imagine a common person.’<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[206]<!–[endif]–>

Seno’s most recent comic has a Sukab as the central character. The book is apparently the first in a series titled Sukab, Intel Melayu (Sukab, The Malay Spy), the first being, Misteri Harta Centini (The Mystery of the Centini Wealth). Like other Sukabs, the Sukab-as-spy is hapless and is often a victim of his circumstances. Despite being used to find the missing wealth of the ‘Suroto’ family, Sukab has never solved a case during his career as a private investigator. Sukab dresses in the styles of spies from films and is incongruous in the Jakartan landscape.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[207]<!–[endif]–> He can’t become a spy without adopting the practices of the spies he has either read about or seen in movies. Sukab muses, ‘I’m a spy, but why doesn’t it feel as if I’m in a film?’<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[208]<!–[endif]–> This self-reflexive intertextuality emphasises the role of other texts in influencing the formation of the text. Sukab becomes a parody of the conventions of the spy character. This aspect of parody and repetition of previous styles or characters is a part of the postmodern condition. However, he spends most of his time avidly reading philosophy texts or literary fiction: his personality and interests conflict with his purpose in the comic. As such Sukab is made to be a mere literary convention rather than an independent and original character.

Sukab also opposes New Order ideologies through his lack of material ambition. He is not rich, not materialistic, not aspirational and he is not a part of the New Order drive to modernisation and economic prosperity. Sukab is aloof or liberated from such worldly concerns and is more concerned with abstract and philosophical issues. Even Sukab the private investigator is more interested in reading philosophy and literature than with solving the crimes he has been assigned to. He aims for enriching his mind and soul rather than his material or physical or material interests. He is an alternative citizen.



<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[204]<!–[endif]–> Agus Noor, Bapak Presiden Yang Terhormat, Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar, 2000.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[205]<!–[endif]–> Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Dunia Sukab: sejumulah cerita, Jakarta: Kompas, 2001, p. viii.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[206]<!–[endif]–> Ajidarma, 2001, p. viii.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[207]<!–[endif]–> John Roosa, “James Bond Jakarta Style” in Inside Indonesia, January-March, 2003.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[208]<!–[endif]–> Seno Gumira Ajidarma, Sukab Intel Melayu: Misteri Harta Centini, Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia, 2002.


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