Soldiers, Dogs and Other Stories (by Wisnu T. Hanggoro)*

Posted in Journalism by Linda Christanty on 11/17/2013

LINDA CHRISTANTY'S short stories talk about the problems often caused by pressure of war, gender inequality, cultural gaps and even love.

In her prize-winning collection Seekor Anjing Mati di Bala Murghab (A Dog Died in Bala Murghab), she depicts the pointlessness of the war in Afghanistan by describing how a foreign soldier coldly guns down a dog owned by Aref, a local resident 's child. "The soldier stands at the end of the road, not far from the dying dog and behaves as if his actions had not shaken the soul of one and eliminated the soul of another," she writes.

In many ways, "Bala Murghab" is a continuation of "Kuda Terbang Maria Pinto ("Maria Pinto's Flying Horse"), which describes the cruelty of the East Timor conflict from the very first paragraph. This reads: "Six months ago his brother passed away after being tortured by rebels. His brother's corpse was returned without a liver, intestines or his genitals in a mahogany-wood coffin. Now Yosef was the only remaining son in the family".

The Yosef in question is a low-ranking soldier from a poor farming family. On the battlefield, he faces student activists represented by Maria Pinto. Though aware the fighting is pointless, he has to obey the commander, losing his soul in the process and becoming just another a small cog in a larger war machine.

Christanty doesn't judge war by painting a black-and-white picture of the opposing sides. Neither does she preach about the need to avoid conflict. Instead she portrays the fight from the point of view of the soldier, often himself a victim of war, inviting readers to contemplate why wars happen and how they recur generation after generation.

In "Pertemuan Atlantik" ("The Atlantic Meeting"), she portrays not war but a yawning cultural gap between writers of diverse national backgrounds. She story illustrates how such gaps should not provide excuses for people to harass each other but rather how diversity provides people with an opportunity to learn from each other and share their experiences.

*SPECIAL TO THE NATION, The Nation, October 28, 2013

Linda Christanty is an author and journalist. Her writing has been recognized by various awards including the national literary award in Indonesia (Khatulistiwa Literary Award 2004 and 2010), award from the Language Center of the Ministry of National Education (2010 and 2013), and The Best Short Stories version by Kompas daily (1989). Her essay "Militarism and Violence in East Timor" won a Human Rights Award for Best Essay in 1998. She has also written script for plays on conflict, disaster and peace transformation in Aceh. It was performed in the World P.E.N Forum (P.E.N Japan and P.E.N International Forum) in Tokyo, Japan (2008). She received the Southeast Asian writers award, S.E.A Write Award, in 2013.

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