The Red Bekisar
This literary-fiction novel from Indonesia is similar in content to Anna Karenina, but set in the Muslim cities and villages of Java. It’s a story about faith, temptation, family, and community—and the lack thereof—as moral and immoral people interact. The novel has been translated from its native Bahasa Indonesia, and there remain numerous un-translatable Indonesian words sprinkled throughout the text; readers will have to piece together meaning from context in many locations. However, the translation is such that readers will do so easily and indeed forget that there are Indonesian words at all as they move along. The translation did remove much of the fluidity and grace from the writing itself, however; the book is valuable as a story and as a study in community more than for its English prose.
The Red Bekisar opens with hyper-sexualized descriptions of a landscape, prefacing the sexual nature of the conflicts in the book. For some readers, this will be off-putting; for others, this will create promises that are not kept in the rest of the text. However, the book treats intimacy with a respect and morality not immediately apparent from the initial pages and is appropriate for a far wider audience than it would be otherwise.
This excellent Indonesian novel of love, betrayal, community, and faith is suitable for most readers.