Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Rape of Sukreni

Anak Agung Pandji Tisna

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Rape of Sukreni

Title: The Rape of Sukreni
Author: Anak Agung Pandji Tisna
Genre: Novel
Written: 1936 (Eng. 1998)
Length: 116 pages
Original in: Indonesian
Availability: The Rape of Sukreni - US
The Rape of Sukreni - UK
The Rape of Sukreni - Canada
  • Indonesian title: Sukreni Gadis Bali
  • Translated by George Quinn
  • With an afterword: 'The Rape of Sukreni: Balinese Theatre in Novel Form'

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : quite well-done, and interesting in both form and content

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Rape of Sukreni is set in Bali, mainly in the outback town of Bingin Banjah -- "little more than a cluster of peasants' home" when the story begins. It is, however surrounded by coconut groves, and so Men Nagara has a steady supply of customers for her stall, selling the plantation workers food and drink. She seems to have made a good choice as to where to open up her business -- and has, in turn, helped bring more prosperity to the area:

     People often credited Men Negara for the area's growth in both prosperity and population. The road through the village was more heavily traveled now. People seemed to gravitate towards her food stall. There were good reasons for this. Men Nagara was an accomplished cook and her meals were cheaper than at other places. But another more important reason was that Ni Negari, Men Nagara's daughter, was easily the most beautiful woman in the district.
       Men Negara cleverly deploys her daughter -- no more so than when she faces possible legal trouble. She kills a pig without the proper permit and normally would get in trouble for that, but Ni Negari's allure is enough to dissuade the local police chief, I Gusti Made Tusan, from pursuing proper procedure. As one of his subordinates laments:
The girl was a devil, beautiful perhaps, but a devil nonetheless, and she had fired a poison-dipped arrow into his superior's heart.
       The police chief's interest and patronage help in a variety of ways. Men Nagara is able to expand and refine her business, while crime is basically eradicated in the neighborhood thanks to the chief's vigilance (and presence). The chief is generous -- but Men Nagara's strict hands-off policy regarding her daughter leaves him rather frustrated; too far below him in social class to be wife-material he is nevertheless determined:
There had to be a way of getting the girl without actually marrying her.
       The appearance of a girl who rivals Ni Negari in beauty, Ni Luh Sukreni, changes the situation. Suddenly Men Negara has to be concerned about this girl who outshines her daughter (even as they look remarkably alike ...). But opportunity -- and I Gusti Made Tusan's lust -- conveniently come together, Men Nagara luring the unsuspecting young woman into a trap, telling her: "Stay with us, even if it is for a day or two. Think of Ni Negari as your own sister."
       Ni Negari is jealous of Ni Luh Sukreni -- who stands in the way of her being with the man she is in love with, Ida Gde --, and is happy enough to go along with the plan that leads to the innocent's violation and downfall.
       The dishonored Ni Luh Sukreni disappears, and it turns out she is not only disgraced but also pregnant, eventually giving birth to a son. Ida Gde and then her family at least provide some support, but hers is not a happy fate -- but this isn't her story: she is only the vessel.
       Eventually the novel jumps ahead many years, leading to the climax where justice is, more or less served. Ni Luh Sukreni, long since disposed of, can't be helped, but the others get theirs, in a karmic conflagration
       An essay appended as an afterword, 'The Rape of Sukreni: Balinese Theatre in Novel Form', notes how very theatrical the novel is, and suggests a comparison with Balinese drama can be useful. In Balinese drama the audience is also likely very familiar with the actual plot, knowing generally what to expect, and so much of the art and enjoyment lies in the presentation of the story. Similarly, in the novel much of what happens can be anticipated -- beginning with the central event, which, at least in the English version, is announced in the title.
       The novel is also theatrical in other ways, from the location of most of the action to the way characters arrive and are introduced. Pandji Tisna does indeed show a good sense of staging and pacing, as the story unfolds in convincing stage-fashion. In translation into novel-form some of the artifice shows: Ni Luh Sukreni's limited scenes would be effective in a staged version, but in the novel it feels as if there's quite a bit missing. Leaping ahead several decades then in its conclusion, the novel also only rapidly deals with what happens to many of the characters during that time -- while also making the inevitability of the concluding clash even more obvious: there's little doubt about what the outcome will be, and how the various parties will suffer.
       Much of the appeal of The Rape of Sukreni does lie in this slightly unconventional approach, more drama-like than traditional European novel, even as Pandji Tisna shows considerable narrative talents obviously gleaned from Western reading. A European 'theatrical' novel would also likely be much more dialogue-heavy, and one of the most interesting aspects of this novel is that it is so play-like despite not using dialogue very extensively.
       Some of the cultural subtleties are no doubt lost on contemporary foreign readers, especially the issues of class and religion which are obviously significant in many of the interactions but not actively foregrounded in the story. Similarly, familial relationships (and expectations and duties) are central to the plot, yet an understanding of them is taken for granted, even as these in some ways don't conform to Western expectations. (Among the background events at one point is also a royal cremation, with Pandji Tisna suggesting its ethnographic interest --- but not following through.) Nevertheless, The Rape of Sukreni is both simple enough as well as sufficiently solidly written to be convincing even if some of this detail remains unclear to readers.
       A moral tale in which fate and guilt are not as readily or perhaps satisfactorily dealt with as modern readers might expect or wish, The Rape of Sukreni is a fine and stylistically intriguing novel that is still of considerable interest.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 July 2015

- Return to top of the page -


The Rape of Sukreni: Anak Agung Pandji Tisna: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Born in Bali, Indonesian author Anak Agung Pandji Tisna lived 1908 to 1978.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2015 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links