Parakitri Tahi Simbolon: A Legacy of Literary and Social Critique

In the annals of Indonesian literature, the name Parakitri Tahi Simbolon stands as a testament to the power of storytelling as a tool for social commentary. Born on December 28, 1947, in Rianiate, Pulau Samosir, North Sumatra, Parakitri’s journey from a small village to the forefront of Indonesian literature is a story of resilience and passion.

Parakitri’s literary career took off with the publication of his novel “Kusni Kasdut” in 1979. The novel, based on the life of a street thug awaiting his death sentence, was a bold critique of the socio-political landscape of post-independence Indonesia. Through his vivid storytelling and nuanced characters, Parakitri shed light on the often-overlooked aspects of the independence revolution, offering readers a fresh perspective on a familiar narrative.

But Parakitri’s contributions to Indonesian literature extended beyond his novels. As a journalist for KOMPAS, he used his platform to write columns that were critical of the New Order government. Despite the political constraints of the time, Parakitri’s columns were filled with symbolism and metaphor, offering readers a glimpse into the complexities of Indonesian society.

One of Parakitri’s most notable works is his book “Menjadi Indonesia” (Becoming Indonesia), published in 1995. The book, the first of three planned volumes, delves into the process of nation-building in Indonesia from the 4th century AD to just before World War II. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Parakitri provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of Indonesia’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Parakitri’s impact was not limited to the world of literature. As a filmmaker, his screenplays for “Gadis Penakluk” (The Conquering Girl) and “Topaz Sang Guru” (Topaz the Teacher) were lauded for their storytelling prowess and social commentary. His contributions to journalism were also significant, with his book “Vademekum Wartawan” (Journalist’s Vademecum) serving as a training manual for aspiring journalists.

Beyond his literary and journalistic achievements, Parakitri was also a staunch advocate for social justice. His involvement in student movements and his unwavering commitment to speaking truth to power serve as a testament to his dedication to making Indonesia a more just and equitable society.

On March 24, 2024, Parakitri Tahi Simbolon passed away, leaving behind a legacy that will continue to inspire generations of Indonesians. His words, filled with passion and purpose, remind us of the power of storytelling to effect change and illuminate the human experience.