Kitab Omong Kosong (The Book of Nonsense) by Seno Gumira Ajidarma

kitab omong kosongKitab Omong Kosong is a sort-of-philosophical-fiction book, written in Indonesian language. This is my first difficult (and most challanging) Indonesian novel that I attempted to read. It revolves around  five theories about the worlds, each overlapping and going against the other theories. The theories are written in the form of a story that most people know, called Ramayana. However, the story of Ramayana is twisted in many ways, intertwined with the new plots and characters. Together, they are called Kitab Omong Kosong. How two young people named Satya and Maneka try to find the book, and what their life get to do with the life of Hanuman, the monkey God, who has a great and long spirit? It also tells us the destruction of the White horse army, which start from Maneka’s tatoo that begins this book of nonsense.

Confused? Don’t even ask yet. The book is divided into three parts. The first part is the story revolving around Rama and Sinta, and their broken down love. It also told the story before the destruction of the White horse army, and how it ended. It was a white horse that kept on running, and was followed by the army. Everytime this horse passed the city, the army would attack, destroy, and kill whoever was standing in their way. That was the end of human civilization in that time. It had to be rebuilt slowly from scratch.

Satya was one of the victim while Maneka was shunned out because the white horse that created the destruction was in a form of a tatoo on her shoulder. Full of questions, she wanted to go to Walmiki – the story-teller who had decided her fate in a story – by writing a story about her before the destruction begun. They started their very long journey riding on top of Benggala Ox. It was a very slow and steady journey. They worked their way along the continent. Other than finding Walmiki, on the journey, they also found a map that leading to the five parchments of the Kitab Omong Kosong book.

But enough of that. I want to go straight to the principles of the theories about the world, in this book. The first theory shows that if an object exists, it is because it does exist. It’s solid, and it’s there. However, the second principle contradicts the first one. It says that something doesn’t exist unless a human sees it. An example is: Do we believe that possible right now a tree would have fallen down with a small ‘thump’ in the middle of the forest without our existances there? Had the tree fallen, or is it just an imagination/ilusion? We never realize or believe something unless we see, hear, or experience it. For people in France or German or Iceland, I don’t exist in their mind. Or their life. They never seen me or known me. But do I exist? I know I do, according to Principle Number One, but I don’t (unless someone witness me) according to Principle Number Two. How can I be exist and not exist at the same time?

The third theory goes more confusing because it contradicts the first and the second principle. It says that the thing exist by the way we call it. It exists because it has a name. For example, we call the Planet Saturn by Saturn. But what would the other beings in the universe call it? Planet QZ132? Or planet-that-cannot-be-pronounced-by-human-tounge? It would then become a very different object for them. I am wondering what I would become if my name were not Elysa Ng.

The fourth theory doesn’t talk about how we live, but how the world is there. Is it their for the sake of human? Or is it just there for a long time? What would happen in a thousand light years later? How does the world make its meaning with or without humans? Go ahead, try to answer it wisely. The fifth principle is about nothingness. Actually, when Satya and Maneka found it, it’s  only a blank book. It it a symbol that it’s up to us to fill it it up.

Hanuman has long-thought and studied all these theories, and had written it. For me, Hanuman is the Gandalf or Dumbledore of the story. He is really wise, deep, thoughtful, and powerful. In Hindu tradition, he is the one of the most respected gods. I want to be Hanuman when I grow up, but I think I wouldn’t be like even 1% of Him.

After Maneka’s visit to him, Walmiki, the story teller of the famous ‘Ramayana,’ decided to sail abroad the country, to a place where he has never been. But on the journey, he started to meet the characters of his story, both minor and major. He was visited by those who appear to die and was question because of their death. Some of them resigned off, wanting to write their own faith, while others were not even remembered by Walmiki himself. (This particular story took three days and nights to finish it. No wonder some were forgotten). Now imagine if Walmiki were God. What would happen if humans come to Him to complain about their either bad or good faith? At the end, Walmiki just dissappeared, as if God was tired of His Creations and left all of them.

This story is very interesting, disturbing, and philosophical; which probably it is the main the reason why it took me some time to read it. The wording are beautiful, written in language to convey the reality and its unreality. It also makes me think, and think, and think. It zapped my energies to cope with the overall understanding. But all-in-all, it is a fantastic book.

Seno Gumira Ajidarma was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1958. He is known as a journalist, photographer, and professor. He has been writing fiction since the age of sixteen. His stories mostly about everyday’s life. He is loud in criticizing sensitive issues in Indonesia. He won Southeast Asian Writers Award in 1997. Ajidarma, other than my mom, is becoming one of my favorite writers now.



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