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On leaders and literature

Written by eastern writer on Thursday, March 20, 2008

The article under the eye-catching headline Leaders don't read Literature (The Jakarta Post, July 20) by Agus Maryono, the paper's contributor, is, in my view, superb in that it exposes a thesis, and not a mere opinion, of noted novelist Achmad Thohari of Banyumas regency. The Post should pay special attention to this novelist for the reason that his novel Orang-orang proyek (The project actors) is expected to be published soon.

He became famous in 1981 for his widely acclaimed novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (Ronggeng dancer from Paruk village), which succeeded in its record of producing translations in five languages, including German, Dutch and Japanese.

But what is most stunning in that related story concerns the thesis, which can be appraised for its originality. It has never been heard of before from any person in his class, as that which was addressed to a special caste of elite, who are nowadays called politicians.

Achmad Thohari should be ready to assume accountability for his daring thesis that ""national leaders do not read literature"". His views assume prominent significance in terms of philosophical depth and psychological dimensions, as they illustrate his theory that ""literature generates spiritual refinement and enhances sympathy toward fellow humans"".

According to the novelist, the lack of this aspect of national traits is fundamentally responsible for the lack of compassion and sensitivity among national leaders, and this in turn has given rise to the nationwide political turmoil.

Such a proposition is not easy to offer without a critical and introspective state of mind. Of course, any reader is free to form his or her own judgment to assess the truth and quality of the novelist's theory respecting the worth of (good) literature for the public good.

But the intrinsic value of this thesis must prevail despite the irony that its realization may need perhaps a span of two generations to accomplish, as far as the national consciousness regarding the worth of good literature for the public good is concerned. The reason is obvious in that the ideal is intertwined in the process of educational development, which after all is recognized as being currently in bad shape.

Source: thejakartapost

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