Ahmad Tohari's trilogy of novels conjures up national demons of Indonesia's darkest historical moment. In reading across the grain of anti-communism and pro-moral reform, this article analyses a wealth of gender imagery. Javanese complementarity, although unequal, recognises a kind of dramatic feminine power that need not be threatening as long as men exercise self-restraint. Although modernisation tends to dichotomise persons into ‘castes’ of the sinful and virtuous, alternative modernities drawn from Javanese cultural sensibilities are also conceivable.
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