A Step Toward Preserving the Canon of Indonesian Literature


The Indonesian literary scene is known for its long history comprising of a multitude of forms, genres, generations and ages. Thousands of literary works have been produced by Indonesian writers starting with the Pujangga Lama (Old Writers) period before the twentieth century to writers of today.

But not all are well-recorded and preserved for future generations, with many old books and texts are either destroyed or forgotten.

Throughout most of his life the late Hans Bague Jassin, Indonesia’s famed poet, literary critic and editor of the country’s oldest publisher Balai Pustaka, had been collecting literary works from books to magazine and newspaper clippings.

Until his death at the age of 82 in 2000, Jassin had not only collected classic literary works but also reviewed, criticized and cataloged them as well as research their historical significance to the Indonesian literary scene and their impact for the nation and its people.

The works collected by Jassin are documented and well preserved by the H. B. Jassin Literary Documentation Center, located at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural complex in Cikini, Central Jakarta.

The center hosts Indonesia’s most complete collection of literary works, comprising of 16,816 works of fiction, 11,990 non fiction, 772 play scripts, 750 biographies of Indonesia’s notable authors and writers, 15,552 clippings, 610 photos of authors, 732 voice recordings and thousands of academic works on Indonesian literatures.

“Until today, these literary documents are like buried treasures. Only a handful of literary enthusiasts visit [the center]. The same can be said about students to add their knowledge and broaden their horizon on literature,” said the center’s chairman Hasan Alwi. “But these opportunities are lost because of time constraints and limited access.”

Hasan also raises another concern, the fast rate of the documents decaying and becoming damaged. A revolutionary step must be taken so the collection can be enjoyed for many years to come.

“Therefore digitizing [the collection] is a must,” Hasan said.

On Tuesday, an agreement was signed between the H. B. Jassin foundation, which manages the center, and digital publishing house Woolu Aksara Maya, to digitize the collection and publish them on the Internet.

Aksaramaya is a private company, which currently publishes e-books for community and educational purposes.

“The H.B. Jassin center is the nation’s asset, which needs to be saved. Through this partnership, the literary documents can be enjoyed through smartphones, tablets and computers … anytime and anywhere with ease,” Aksaramaya chairman Panya Siregar said.

The agreement is paving the way for the digitization process to commence but it is not clear when the process will begin and when the works will be available in its digital form.

But Aksaramaya said general readers will be able to purchase the digitized version of the center’s collection through its e-bookstore, while students will be able to become members of their “e-library” and view the works for research and educational purposes.

Thanks to: The Jakarta Globe.

Source: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/features/a-step-toward-preserving-the-canon-of-indonesian-literature/