‘Gentayangan’ Takes Readers on Adventures to Question Identity and Belonging

Dhania Sarahtika | January 08, 2018 (photo by JG/ Dhania Sarahtika)

Jakarta. “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go wandering,” is a recurring line in Intan Paramaditha’s latest book, “Gentayangan: Pilih Sendiri Petualangan Sepatu Merahmu” (“The Wandering: Choose Your Own Red-Shoe Adventure”).

The book was launched during the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali during October and in Jakarta last month.

“Gentayangan” is an Indonesian term referring to the dead who, instead of proceeding to the hereafter, haunt the living. In Intan’s book, the word points to women tempted to cross geographical and social boundaries.

Intan’s wandering experience influenced the book, for she has trotted the globe all her life. After getting a doctorate from New York University in 2014, she started teaching at Sydney’s Macquarie University, returning to Jakarta occasionally.

Told from the second-person point of view, the story starts with an Indonesian woman in Jakarta who sleeps with the Devil in exchange for a favor. This nameless character wishes to travel, so the Devil leaves her a pair of red shoes, inspired by “The Wizard of Oz,” Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes,” and Anne Sexton’s poem of the same title.

Intan has a knack for infusing horror in her work, like in her short-story collection “Sihir Perempuan” (“Black Magic Woman”) and “Kumpulan Budak Setan” (“The Devil’s Slave Club”), an anthology co-written by Ugoran Prasad and Eka Kurniawan. What is interesting, is that she often retells existing legends and fairytales from a feminist perspective.

In “Gentayangan,” the role of the Devil is not just to make the story subversive, or attach literal meaning to the idiom of “selling one’s soul to the Devil.”

The Devil provides a way for the main character to escape her mundane life. With a dead-end job as an English teacher, she can have neither physical, nor social mobility.

“The Devil is a way for her to cross her boundaries. Come to think of it; not everybody has a ‘devil.’ There are people who cannot get away from their physical or geographical location, so his existence represents the main character’s desperation for mobility,” Intan told the Jakarta Globe in a recent interview.

Multilayered Stories

The book comes in a “choose-your-own-adventure” format, enabling readers to explore different paths and endings. Readers stand in the main character’s shoes and take her to cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Berlin and Tijuana.

The format provides space to address many issues.

The main character begins as a naive, opportunistic girl with wanderlust, but her adventures challenge her understanding of life. For example, she is an apolitical woman from a Muslim family. She never cared about what happened during the 1998 riots in Jakarta, which resulted in many ethnic Chinese people being tortured, raped and killed.

In one storyline, she meets a Chinese-Indonesian woman in Los Angeles who brings up the subject. Then the character remembers that her father hung a prayer mat over their front gate, implying that they were not the “enemy.”

“She realizes that there are many things in her past she never questioned. Problematic things. Hanging out a prayer mat basically meant excluding certain people,” Intan said.

After a visit to the Holocaust Museum, she also starts thinking about the 1965 mass killings and the demonization of Gerwani, the women’s organization of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Besides history, social status and the “American Dream” are also tackled here. The character originally aims to marry a rich American man who can help her obtain a green card, and she does get it in one storyline.

On the other hand, she marries Fernando, an illegal immigrant from Peru, who has been successful. When Donald Trump wins the election, she and Fernando decide to leave America for good instead of having a president known for his hostility towards immigrants.

“She and her husband shatter every idea of the American Dream. They decide they don’t have to be there to be happy and fulfilled,” Intan said.

Sometimes Intan blurs the line of the real and supernatural, as well as life and death. After visiting the grave of the shoemaker, the main character boards a train filled with famous dead people, such as Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker and Amelia Earhart – women who traveled far from home.

Good vs. Bad?

Through the layers, the book invites readers to ponder the meaning of home and identity. In that case, what does it take to be a bad girl who goes wandering?

At a glance, the book seems to say that a bad girl does not conform to social and religious norms. The main character is often contrasted with her older sister, who owns a modest-wear business, actively shares religious content, and is married to a Muslim man who is the manager of a celebrity preacher.

Her sister is financially independent, yet she has to ask for her husband’s permission before making any decisions.

Intan admitted that she wanted to comment on the wave of conservatism and commodification of religion through the sister, but that does not mean that she is one-dimensional. The sister is opposed to polygamy and started wearing a hijab when it was still banned at schools during former President Suharto’s era, indicating her rebellious streak.

“I didn’t want to make a dichotomy or draw a bold line [between the main character and her sister], which says that the sister is normative and boring. She is willing to negotiate. These characters constantly negotiate with their surroundings and there are some points where the two agree with each other,” Intan said.

Wandering girls can be anyone, married or not, religious or not. The main character is not politically conscious at first. She uses marriage to elevate her socioeconomic status but learns about love and loss in each one. In another storyline, she rethinks her sexuality after encountering a female filmmaker.

This way, the book shows that such girls do not have to be conscious of what they are looking for, as long as they are brave enough to take the first step.

“The most important is the process itself, which leads you to be more critical. I think the main character represents many Indonesian women who just want to travel and not be bored. But all these adventures show her that there are things to be questioned, or lines to be crossed,” Intan said.

Perjalanan Perempuan Terkutuk yang Kosmopolit

Gilang Saputro, Jurnal Ruang

26 Januari 2018


Gentayangan bukanlah kisah hantu urban seperti yang belakangan terus muncul dengan berbagai tawaran “identitas” nya. Kita tidak akan menemukan setan yang terlalu menyeramkan, dukun penipu, dan Kiai yang gagal. Gentayangan juga bukan aktivitas paranormal atau hantu yang tiba-tiba muncul di jendela, mengerjai saat mandi, dan mendekap di petiduran atau di dalam lemari, arwah penasaran atau iblis yang merasuk dan mewujud sebagai anak kecil menyebalkan yang tidak mati-mati.

Gentayangan tidak tampak bersusah payah untuk menghadirkan tegangan-tegangan suspen, misal seperti ketika kita membaca Abdullah Harahap atau Patrick Süskind. Sebagai novel dengan model alur “pilih sendiri”. Gentayangan juga tidak seperti R.L. Stine yang membuat kita rela dikerjai untuk membolak-balik halaman, mengambil kaca, atau menerawang halaman dengan cahaya untuk sekadar menikmati bagian kisah seru yang sengaja ditulis terbalik. Sebagaimana dalam format memilih sendiri alur kisah, perjalanan yang seolah acak itu pada dasarnya mengisi fungsi sekuen yang logis. Pembaca akan mendapatkan pengalaman yang tidak jauh berbeda meskipun mengambil rute pengisahan yang berbeda. Tentu ada upaya agar pembaca memilih apa yang “diharapkan” oleh pengarang”. Tanpa menjalani peristiwa itu, pengalaman membaca tidaklah utuh, kita bisa saja kehilangan kesempatan untuk memahami semesta kisah.

Gentayangan adalah kisah perjalanan perempuan kosmopolit dengan banyak kemungkinan rute dan kejadian bercampur horor, mitologi, serta berbagai penafsiran baru kisah-kisah petualangan masa kecil. Narator akan memosisikan Saudara sebagai “kau” pembaca, dengan cara itu pembaca dibawa masuk sebagai si perempuan gentayangan. Bagi pembaca lelaki, ada waktu yang cukup untuk masuk dan membaca lebih dalam sebagai perempuan. Sepanjang perjalanan dengan banyak kemungkinan itu, narator tidak peduli apakah Saudara setuju atau tidak pada berbagai kebenaran yang diajukan, bisa jadi dia sok tahu.

Pandangan narator terhadap dunia, godaannya untuk melibatkan kita dalam semesta yang dia bangun serupa dengan Iblis. Bedanya, dia tidak sedang menguji iman. Bahwa kemudian Saudara menemukan berbagai cara pandang baru selama perjalanan, itu tidaklah lain adalah hadiah, sebagai penemuan identitas serta pemahaman baru terhadap dunia. Pada pemahaman itu, berbagai anggapan moral yang universal muncul seiring dengan identitas yang baru Saudara jumpai. Tetapi Saudara tidak perlu khawatir, dunia yang baru ternyata tidak begitu asing, semudah jatuh cinta.

Sasaran pembaca Gentayangan bukanlah anak-anak. Saudara tentu tidak akan menemukan kesenangan membaca cerita hantu, misteri dan petualangan seperti masa kecil: pembunuh di suatu perkemahan musim panas dengan perilaku para penyintasnya yang konyol dan dengan amanat sederhana bahwa persahabatan dan kebaikan akan menang. Meskipun begitu, dalam novel ini Saudara bisa saja menemukan sedikit kesenangan dalam perpaduan yang janggal antara Malin Kundang, Bajak laut, Cermin Ajaib, dan Dorothy dalam The Wizard of Ozsembari menyimak berbagai adegan bercinta yang spontan dan liar antara si Perempuan dan Iblis di makam Bertolt Brecht, atau dengan lelaki lain. Tetapi, apakah pembaca dewasa memang tidak benar-benar lagi butuh bersenang-senang?


Intan Paramaditha Ajak Pembaca “Gentayangan”

AntaraNews, 29 Oktober 2017
Yashinta Difa
Pilih sendiri petualanganmu

Jika Anda pernah membaca serial “Choose Your Own Adventure” keluaran penerbit Amerika, Bantam Books, yang diterjemahkan ke Indonesia sebagai serial “Pilih Sendiri Petualanganmu” oleh Penerbit Gramedia, medio tahun 1980-an, maka Anda akan merasa cukup familiar dengan format yang diterapkan Intan dalam “Gentayangan”.

Format “pilih sendiri petualanganmu” itulah yang membedakan “Gentayangan” dengan novel lain. Kata ganti “kau” yang digunakan untuk merujuk pada si protagonis perempuan terasa sangat komunikatif saat dibaca.

Saat membaca karya ini pembaca diajak ikut bertualang bersama sepasang sepatu merah, membuat pilihan-pilihan dengan konsekuensi dan akhir cerita berbeda.

Di akhir setiap bab penulis menyediakan beberapa opsi seperti jika pembaca ingin membatalkan perjalanan dan kembali ke rumah di New York silakan buka halaman selanjutnya, tetapi pembaca bisa juga memilih meneruskan perjalanan ke Berlin dengan langsung meloncat ke halaman 33.

Total terdapat 11 plot dengan 15 akhir cerita berbeda yang bisa ditelusuri pembaca. Di halaman terakhir buku disediakan halaman khusus untuk memudahkan pembaca mencatat akhir cerita apa saja yang sudah ia tempuh.

Perjalanan Interaktif lewat Novel Mistis

Sabtu, 28 October 2017 05:01 WIB

 Fathia Nurul Haq 

DI tengah bombardir promo tiket maskapai internasional bertarif murah, juga para travel vlogger yang membuat sensasi melancong sangat nyata, dan seolah-olah terjangkau, Intan Paramaditha dengan gagah berani mengangkat cerita kaum marginal dalam dunia travelista yang perlu bersekutu dengan iblis hanya agar dapat berkeliling dunia.

When Wandering the Globe Is a Feminist Choose-Your-Own Adventure


Concepts around travel and gender have been a focus of Intan for some time, so it’s no surprise they feature heavily in her debut novel. The Wandering bills itself as a novel about “travel and displacement, capturing those who are tempted by the edges, those in motion and paralyzed, those who flee and get caught.” You basically jump from section to section, making decisions that send you down a fork in the plot that introduce you to a cast of “travelers, tourists, migrants, all in their escape, border crossings, searches for home, routes, and emergency exits.”

Then you flip the book back to page one and start all over again.


But even though her book is about travel, and she’s expected to appear at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival this week in the heart of Indonesia’s “find yourself” territory, Intan doesn’t believe in all that “get lost and rediscover yourself” bullshit. The whole notion smacks of white privilege and the kinds of inward-looking idleness that wealth can afford.

“Travel shouldn’t be an achievement,” she said. “I mean, what about those who can’t afford to ‘get lost’ in a faraway country?”

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