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Minangkabau Male Angst and the Autobiographical Mode

Watson, C.W. (2023) Minangkabau Male Angst and the Autobiographical Mode. Indonesia and the Malay World, 51 (150). pp. 165-190. ISSN 1363-9811. E-ISSN 1469-8382. (doi:10.1080/13639811.2023.2199643) (KAR id:102160)


Darman Moenir’s autobiographical novel, Bako, relates the experience of the protagonist – the ‘I’ of the narrative – residing with his mother in the community of his father’s relatives, the bako of the title. According to the principles of Minangkabau matriliny, neither he nor his mother are members of the father’s kin group and there is a tension in the relationship between mother and son on one side and the bako on the other. Through successive chapters, each concerning a significant individual in the protagonist’s boyhood and adolescence, the novel explores this tension and its effects on his mother. A close reading of key passages that employ a narrative device of shifting voices – the boy’s, the narrator’s, the author’s – reveals how the writing works to persuade the reader of the dramatic intensity of the boy’s quest for self-knowledge. A comparison with novels of Minangkabau society of an earlier period shows both continuity and change. The undisguised use of autobiographical experience on which the novel draws is explored through an illuminating comparison with Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s stories and through a glance at the genre of Japanese autobiographical novels and its conventions.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/13639811.2023.2199643
Uncontrolled keywords: Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous), Anthropology, Geography, Planning and Development
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2023 11:25 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2024 15:24 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Watson, C.W..

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