Tan Malaka – Bibliophile

by indonotes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the ways I like to keep up my Indonesian language skills is translation. Thus it so happens that I am crawling through the early stages of Madilog, the magnum opus of the Indonesian radical Tan Malaka. Reading through the forward I came across the below passage in which he descibes his regret at being unable to take a good supply of books with him during his wanderings. As someone whose bedroom always seems to have books spilling out of book cases and piling up in tottering stacks, I feel quite a degree of sympathy. It is also an apt example of the importance of books, and intellectuals, in revolutionary political change.

We still remember the various satires of the late Leon Trotsky because he bought books by the crate load to his first place of exile in Alma Ata. I have still not forgotten several articles related to the crates of books that accompanied Drs. Muhammad Hatta to his place of exile. Truly I understand the attitude of these two leaders and as it happens I greatly regret that I was unable to do the same and always failed if attempting to do so.

For a person who lives in thoughts that must be disseminated, both via the pen and with the mouth, there is a need for sufficient books. A craftsman cannot make a building if materials such as cement, bricks and so on are not present. A writer or an orator needs notes from the from the books of enemies, friends, or teachers. Complete and apt notes can vanquish enemies as fast as lighting and can seize agreement and the fullest sympathetic belief. In polemic, a war of pens, as well as in propaganda, these notes are things that can’t be left behind, like cement or bricks  for making a building. Apart from being used as such materials, books of value certainly have great benefits for knowledge in the general sense.

In Indonesian the text reads:

Kita masih ingat berapa sindiran dihadapkan pada almarhum Leon Trotsky, karena ia membawa buku berpeti-peti ke tempat pembuangan yang pertama di Alma Ata. Saya masih belum lupa akan beberapa tulisan yang berhubungan dengan peti-peti buku yang mengiringi Drs. Mohammad Hatta ke tempat pembuangannya. Sesungguhnya saya maklumi sikap kedua pemimpin tersebut dan sebetulnya saya banyak menyesal karena tiada bisa berbuat begitu dan selalu gagal kalau mencoba berbuat begitu.

Bagi seseroang yang hidup dalam pikiran yang mesti disebarkan, baik dengan pena maupun dengan mulut, perlulah pustaka yang cukup. Seorang tukang tak akan bisa membikin gedung, kalau alatnya seperti semen, batu tembok dan lain-lain tidak ada. Seorang pengarang atau ahli pidato, perlu akan catatan dari buku musuh, kawan ataupun guru. Catatan yang sempurna dan jitu bisa menaklukan musuh secepat kilat dan bisa merebut permufakatan dan kepercayaan yang bersimpati sepenuh-penuhnya. Baik dalam polemik, perang-pena, baik dalam propaganda, maka catatan itu adalah barang yang tiada bisa ketinggalan, seperti semen dan batu tembok buat membikin gedung. Selainnya dari pada buat dipakai sebagai barang bahan ini, buku-buku yang berarti tentulah besar faedahnya buat pengetahuan dalam arti umumnya.

 

 

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