A Way Into Contemporary Indonesian Literature
Anyone approaching Indonesia for the first time through its literature and language, and seeking to find their bearings through a comparison with what they may know about contemporary India or other former European colonies throughout the world, is likely to be struck by two immediate differences. First of all, there is no perceptible trace of the language of the former colonial power, the Netherlands, in contemporary Indonesia. This seems a little odd, given how much English is still spoken in India and Malaysia – though of course one should acknowledge this is both the cause and effect of English being a leading international language – and how much French continues to be used in former colonies. There are good historical reasons to explain the disappearance of Dutch, the primary one being that the five-year revolutionary struggle for independence between 1945-1950 left a bitter taste in the mouths of even the most Hollandophile Indonesians. Consequently, there arose a determination to hammer out a single national language to be the vehicle of political, social, economic and cultural communication across the archipelago of islands stretching thousands of miles from Sumatra in the West to the Moluccas and Papua in the east. Indonesia’s success in accomplishing this feat is the second startling difference with the current situation in India where there is no single national language and where the south of the country deeply resents any attempt to impose the language of Hindi as the common language of all.
In Indonesia there is only one national language Indonesian. In Indonesia ...
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