May 19, 2022 Last Updated 8:50 AM, May 6, 2022

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Christmas in a prison camp

The following excerpts are taken from a diary of letters kept by an Australian woman who lived in Java, Kalimantan and Bali for nine years. In this letter, written in January 1978, the author describes her visit to a detention camp for women political prisoners Just after Christmas 1977. The prisoners have since been released. The letter begins with a description of the long drive from Semarang west to Pelantungan where the camp was located up in the mountains. The visit was arranged by a Dutch pastor, 'Co'. Fenton-Huie was accompanied by the pastor's wife, Phia, and a Dutch nursing sister, Truus. After abandoning their car which could not travel the last stretch of the rough rocky road, the women had to walk the final kilometres to the camp, which also held 40 delinquent boys. The visitors shared a simple Indonesian meal in the house of one of the guards before entering 'a large barracks-type hall' to witness the camp's Christmas concert.

Not that I don't love

This short story, written by an ex-political prisoner, has never been published in its original Indonesian version. We cannot disclose the author's real name or the various pseudonyms under which she has been publishing since her release. A member ofGerwani, a women's organisation with alleged connections with the Indonesian Communist Party, banned since the so-­called coup of September 1965, the author seems to have started writing fiction only after her detention. The experience colours much of her writing. Most of her short stories are about the down and out, the women whom poverty has driven to theft, begging and prostitution, the 'criminals' (or were they the victims?) with whom the author shared her prison cells.

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A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar