- Japan Society for Southeast Asian Studies
- 東南アジア -歴史と文化- (ISSN:18837557)
- no.23, pp.3-21, 1994
Daniel Defoe's novel <i>Robinson Crusoe</i> (1719), which tells how a castaway survived on a desert island and returned home after 28 years of solitude, as pedagogically recommended children's literature, the story of early capitalistic entrepreneur or the religious tale of how an impious man embraced the Christian faith, has been rewritten recurrently over 270 years by many authors in various ways. The Malay abridged version of Robinson Crusoe (hereafter abbreviated as MRC) is one part of the long and vast tradition of Robinson stories. This paper aims to examine how MRC was translated, what has been omitted or added, how it differs from Defoe's original text, in an attempt to provide a preliminary sketch on translated literature in colonial Indonesia, a subject that has been relatively neglected in the conventional study on the birth and development of modern literature in Southeast Asia.<br>MRC was translated from the Dutch text by A. F. Von Dewall (1834-1909), a Javaneseborn German philologist, and first published in Batavia in 1875. It can, therefore, be regarded as one of the earliest translations of European novels in Indonesia. The third edition of MRC appeared in 1882, the seventh came out in 1906, and an unknown Singapore edition was published in 1893. The Batavia and Singapore editions, 94 and 77 pages respectively, are the same except for the orthography. Judging from the book cover MRC seems to have been edited by the colonial government as reading material for students. This abridged edition follows Defoe's fundamental plots and settings, such as the shipwreck, Robinson's solitary life and hardship on a desert island, his adventures, fighting the savages, the master-servant relationship between Robinson and Friday, the escape and return to his homeland. But the style and some details of MRC are quite different from Defoe's text.<br>One of the most striking differences lies in MRC's narrative style. In contrast to Defoe's text, which is written in the first person, all the happenings, experiences and ideas in MRC are depicted in the third person, or told by the narrator, except for the conversations and monologues. This change of style occurs partly because MRC relies on a Dutch text, which is most likely based on J. H.Campe's German version, <i>Robinson der Jungere</i> (1779) written in the third person style. The more important reason, however, lies in the fact that MRC is written in the form of <i>hikayat</i>, the traditional narrative of the Malay world, which is unfamiliar with the first person style. And interestingly enough, if we eliminate the 'oral punctuation' from MRC's <i>hikayat</i> style, there will appear a very modern, or artificial, Malay language compared with colloquial Malay then prevailing in the newspapers and popular novels. Thus MRC is written in a blended form of traditional narrative style and modern Malay.<br>In its depiction of the character of Malay's Robinson too, MRC has some substantial differences. These occur because the main themes of Defoe's text, such as the philosophy of British middle-class life, inner conflict over the faith in Christ, or pertinent behavior of Robinson as the ideal type of emerging bourgeoisie, are almost totally left out of MRC. Here are mainly stressed the spirit of diligence, self-restraint and invention for surviving in more severe destitution than in Defoe's text.<br>MRC was most likely recited by school teachers to the class. The story of Robinson Crusoe in Malay, being deprived of the social, cultural and religious background of Defoe's text, and emphasizing pedagogical and ethical meanings, yet maintaining Robinson's supremacy over the island (colony) and Friday (native), was no doubt worthy of being introduced into the colonial society.