Intan Paramaditha’s ‘Gentayangan’ crosses many borders



Sydney | Mon, November 13, 2017 | 09:59 am

You yearn to travel, but never have. It’s too expensive, so you’re stuck here — in Indonesia, at your boring job teaching English, despite never having stepped foot in an English-speaking country. You’ve tried to find fulfillment in romance, but your boyfriends have all been losers.

Meanwhile, your sister’s doing well: she has a successful husband, two cute kids, and runs her own Islamic fashion business. That’s fine for her, but it’s not the life you want for yourself. Not at all.

What choice does a gal have but to cut a deal with the devil? So that’s exactly what you, the protagonist of Gentayangan, do.

Written in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, Intan Paramaditha’s latest book sets you free to roam the earth, from New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, all the way to Berlin, Amsterdam and Tijuana.

Take into account the panoply of racially and culturally diverse characters, not to mention the stories of their own wanderings, and the ground covered multiplies severalfold: Lebanon and India, the Philippines and Vietnam, Belgium and Peru — the list goes on and on.

Based on these details alone, it would be easy to mistake Gentayangan for an uncritical paean to cosmopolitanism and the liberty it grants. Yet that is precisely what Intan’s novel resists.

Besides the professors, journalists and expatriates who trot the globe freely are the refugees, illegal immigrants and impoverished students who find that border crossing comes with strings attached: homesickness and solitude; poverty and vulnerability; the threat of deportation, or conversely, being stranded.

Only when the reader dons the red shoes of global nomadism does she realize their blessing and curse. On the one hand, they empower, like Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz. On the other hand, they render the wearer powerless, like the red shoes of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale.

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