Tuesday, May 14, 2019



Chairil Anwar

Translated by Burton Raffel

When my time comes
I want to hear no one's cries
Nor yours either

Away with all who cry!

Here I am, a wild beast
Driven out of the herd

Bullets may pierce my skin
But I’ll keep on

Carrying forward my wounds and my pain,
Until suffering disappears

And I won't care anymore

I want to live another thousand years

Chairil Anwar (1922–1949) was the primary architect of the Indonesian literary revolution in both poetry and prose. In a few intense years he forged almost ingle-handedly a vital, mature literary language in Bahasa Indonesia, a language which formally came to exist in 1928. Anway led the way for the many Indonesian writers who have emerged during the past fifty years. Chairil Anwar belongs to the 1945 generation writers. His writings incorporated the themes of individualism, death, and existentialism.

In the book the complete poetry of the poems and prose of Chairil Anwar, there is an anecdote of an American woman, long resident in Indonesia, who came out of anesthesia, after an operation, and heard herself singing over and over again the above poem, especially the last line, “I want to live another thousand years”

The poem itself asserts that we shouldn’t allow our life to be controlled and shaped by outside forces. One should be the dictator of one’s life and protect one’s freedom and individualistic nature. The poem was written around 1943. At that time, Indonesia had not been independent and was still under the colonization of Japan. It is possible that the writing style of this poem was influenced by the social condition at that time. 

The great translator Professor Burton Raffel (my favorite Chinese poetry translator) who passed away last year has carefully translated this poem  to give pragmatic equivalence when it comes to choosing of words and dynamic balance in the structure of the lines. The result is maintaining the power and aesthetics of the original.

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