maandag 24 augustus 2015

Simple Miracles by Ayu Utami

KITLV Library has now been replaced in the great University Library of Leiden. Less personnel, but still excellent facilities. One of the last books by Ayu Utami is already available here, Simple Miracles, doa dan arwah. Published in October 2014. According to texts in the book it is a sequence to the personal trilogy of living as a bachelor (Si Parasit Lajang), falling in love (Cerita Cinta Enrico) and her apology why she wanted to marry in a Catholic chapel with prayers, the official Catholic ceremony and small number of friends (Pengakuan eks Parasit Lajang).
At the presentation of the Miracles book, 5 November 2014

The  book has many stories about the growing up of Utami, relations with father (often absent), mother and two aunts (always there), two sisters, Agnes and Cecilia and a brother Bonifacius, who can see spirits. It is about little things in the family, among other thing about belief in special days. The mother would like to fast on Jumat Kliwon and no go to bed before midnight on such a sacred day. Only very short it is told that between the age of 20-35 years Ayu experienced a negative period towards religion, perhaps even to be labelled atheist. But this idea is not elaborated. Also no arguments against religion and in favour of atheism are given. 
The next step which she wants to present in this book is Spiritualisme Kritis. Much of the book is about the possibility of ruh, spirits of living and dead people (death and burial of her father and mother are given, Saint Carolus hospital in Jakarta). She has a general plea for a critical spirituality and talks about post-secularism that should always have a critical style. There is not much church, no nuns or priests, but easy acceptance of miracles in Lourdes, much devotion for Mary. Praying the rosary is a good fifteen minutes for personal meditation (138-140). Taboo or sacred (keramat) days and nights may become a could encounter between this rough material world and a refined universe (jagad halus). 
This book should be the first of (again) a series of books, on Critical Spirituality. Perhaps I was not in the right mood when I read it, but I found it not really exciting, refreshing or convincing. Bilangan Fu and related books were much more interesting for me, like also the Saman, Larung books. Or should I not be among the public she writes for?
I noticed that the spirits of ancestors are important for Ayu. Also the virgin Mary, mother of Jesus is given much sympathy and attention. But Jesus is virtually absent from her writings. Perhaps she must write a Life of Jesus, like was done by Endo Shusaku.

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