Work on the translation and adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” in Indonesia
Oleh: Faiza Mardzoeki
“A Doll’s House” is a drama by Henrik Ibsen, a playwright from Norway. His plays are the second most performed dramas in the world, after Shakespeare.
How about in Indonesia? “A Doll’s House”, “Hedda Gabler” and “Enemy of the People” are somewhat known here and have been performed, but mainly on university campuses. They are not as well known among the public as, for example, Shakespeare.
“A Doll’s House” was translated and published in Indonesian language in the 1960s using very formal language; it was a “pure” translation. There has been no new translation or adaptation since then, until now.
I first read A DOLL’S HOUSE on 2008 after I heard comments that it was a play that contained many feminist features. I was interested then already in works of art that were engaged with issues regarding the situation of women in society.
I bought a copy of the 1960 translation published by Yayasan Obor. I compared it two English language versions: by Peter Watts (1960, Penguin) and Kenneth McLeish (1995, Cambridge University Press, reprinted 15 times 1995- 2009).
One aspect I noticed was how important Ibsen’s portrayal of the way Helmer talked to his wife, Nora, calling her: - from Peter Watts translation - : my little featherbrain, little scatterbrain, the squirrel, little prodigal, little birds, skylark, a baby, my little obstinate, little frightened dove and poor helpless little creature. These were often translated literally in the 1960 Indonesian translation.
Ibsen had a very critical consciousness regarding the husband wife relationship in society at that time.
When translated into Indonesian this way, the criticism intended by Ibsen is lost in Indonesian. These are not metaphors used in Indonesia.
This particular example among many, but an important example, aroused my interest in creating an Indonesian text of A DOLL’S HOUSE that would speak to the contemporary Indonesian. Such a contemporary language must seek to retain the criticalness and sharpness of Ibsen’s original in relation to the husband wife relationship. I have sought to use new metaphors, informed too I hope by a feminist perspective, that speak to the contemporary Indonesian situation.
I have tried also to think freely about how to adapt the story to contemporary Indonesia.
This version is a new Indonesian translation adapted to speak to the contemporary Indonesian society. It is set among the Jakarta middle class. This context is different, but the story still takes place just before Christmas. The characters now have Indonesian names and some scenes and dialogues - even the concretization of some conflicts - have been changed to fit the new context, influenced also perhaps by new perspectives and analysis.
In Ibsen's original version there is a scene where the character Nora dances the Italian dance the "Tarantella", an important scene in her process from the old to the new "Nora". The Tarantella is unknown in Indonesia whereas the Jakarta middle class is already familiar with Ballet. From "Swan Lake" I take the metaphor of the “White Swan”, beautiful, sweet, gentle and loyal in contrast with the angry and vengeful "Black Swan". Nora, often called "my White Swan" by her husband, (Tommy Herlambang), no longer wants to play the role of the White Swan for her husband. She becomes, perhaps, a black swan, seeking to dance her own dance, as she wishes.
There are many other contextualization that take place throughout the manuscript that place the characters and story in today’s Jakarta, in today’s Indonesia.