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Aug 27, 2007

Jihad: From Jakarta To The Whitehouse




When I first saw the recently released Indonesian translation of Barack Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream", over here in Southeast Asia I was completely taken aback not only by the violent imagery in new title of the book, "Menerjang Harapan: Dari Jakarta Menuju Gedung Putih", but by the fact that it was not really a translation at all, but rather a completely different title than the original book.

A correct translation of the title of Obama's book would have been "Keberanian Harapan: Pemikiran Untuk Meraih Kembali Impian America" which translates into "Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream". However, the title for the Indonesian translation of Barack Obama's book is "Menerjang Harapan: Dari Jakarta Menuju Gedung Putih" which translates into "Assault Hope: From Jakarta to the White House".

The problem with direct translations is that often times they never make sense. The words "menerjang" (assault or attack) and "harapan" (hope or expectation) make sense when used separately, but used together, the term "menerjang harapan" makes no sense in Indonesian. But while the term makes no sense, it does however present a mental picture to the native Indonesian speaker, the imagery of a "hopeful assault" a "struggle for victory" or to put it more bluntly, a "jihad", or as the Indonesians see it, Obama's "jihad" for the Whitehouse. For the native Indonesian speaker, this figurative language creates a mental image whereas the translation of the book's title can actually come to mean "Jihad: From Jakarta To The Whitehouse".

Why would the publishers drastically change the title of the book for the Indonesian translation and make use of such figurative language? Your guess is as good as mine, but it would seem that Barack Obama is quite interested with promoting himself in Southeast Asia as a crusader for the cause of Indonesia's Muslims.

I've only just picked up the book, but judging from the changed title I'm sure we're in for a lot more surprises inside.





28 comments:

  1. Excellent find amigo...

    Thanks for bringing it to our collective attention...

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  2. It is true that "menerjang" means "assault" but I disagree that it evokes imagery of jihad. Instead the title is trying to describe a massive amount of hope, as big as a storm. Most readers may dream to work in the U.S. Here is someone "from Jakarta to the White House," self-described as growing up "like a Jakarta street kid," who is charging ahead with massive hope and can reach the White House. Bad translation, yes, but sexier title for a book that costs Rp. 99,900 or about 11 packs of cigarettes or the cost of lunch for 5.

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  3. "Instead the title is trying to describe a massive amount of hope, as big as a storm."

    I'm not quite sure how you derived "a massive amount of hope, as big as a storm" from the title when neither the word storm is not mentioned in the title. But nonetheless, thanks for describing what the term "menerang harapan" means to you.

    As I stated, the term "menerjang harapan" has no meaning in Indonesian. It is figurative speech that subjects the reader to confrontational and violent imagery using the words "assault" and "hope".

    Bad translation? I don't think so, I think the choice of the title was intentional and it's purpose was not to translate Obama's book, but to invoke a very strong emotion with the Indonesian people.

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  4. If the book proclaims to be a translation, then why not use the correct title which would be ~

    "Keberanian Harapan: Pemikiran Untuk Meraih Kembali Impian America"

    Sorry, but sexy just doesn't cut it.

    At the end of the day, the title used seems to be both deceptive and manipulative.

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  5. Something a lot of us have come to realise since 9/11 is that the Jihadists are masterful at creating hidden meanings in plain sight. I'm sure you're familiar with "Jinglish", but I can't recall it being used to hide Shinto messages.

    Thanks for being the eyes and ears in an interesting part of our world.

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  6. I'm not quite sure how you derived "a massive amount of hope, as big as a storm" from the title when neither the word storm is not mentioned in the title.

    "Menerjang" is used in two ways. Yes, it describes military assault but it also is used just as often to describe massive weather events. "Tentara AS menerjang kelompok AQ di Irak." (U.S. military assaults AQI.) "Angin badai menerjang 100 rumah desa." (Storm wind assaults 100 village homes.)

    If the book proclaims to be a translation, then why not use the correct title... Sorry, but sexy just doesn't cut it.

    Look, every American knows that this book is a throw away. Every politician that seeks the White House produces a corny book during primary season that nobody reads. So if Americans, who have a vested interest in Obama's gambit, are not interested then why should Indonesians? I suspect the local publisher changed the title to appeal to the local market, which is more interested in the fact that he grew up in Jakarta and is now racing to the White House. For an Indonesian, even one who can throw Rp.100,000, which compares to US$100 in context of cost of living, "Menerjang Harapan: Dari Jakarta Menuju Gedung Putih" sounds a lot better than "Keberanian Harapan: Pemikiran Untuk Meraih Kembali Impian America."

    I think the choice of the title was intentional...

    Pick up the phone and call the publisher. You are in Jakarta, man! :)

    Anyway, I still love your blog. You, Indcoup and others bring me back home...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Here is my two cents:
    "Menerjang Harapan Dari Jakarta Menuju Gedung Putih".

    It could be translated from a Malaysian perspective as a "Lunge of hope towards the White House". The word Gedung in Indonesian if translated to Malay would actually mean, "warehouse".
    Menerjang: Lunge
    Harapan: Hope
    Menuju:Towards

    ReplyDelete
  8. The problem Ranger is that although the languages are similar, "menerjang" is not a Malaysian word, it is an Indonesian word and the meaning is not "lunge" in the sense that you've used it but more along the lines of a "lunging attack" or an assault.

    So the title does convey a violent imagery to the native Indonesian - of an attack from Jakarta to the Whitehouse.

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  9. @Lao
    Sorry to ask, I'm curious, are you Indonesian? I am, and the first thing that pop out in my head when reading the title of that book ("Menerjang Harapan: Dari Jakarta Menuju Gedung Putih") didn't convey any violent imagery or what so ever.
    I understand that the phrase "menerjang harapan" is not commonly used here in Indonesia, but reading the tittle, gave me a picture of the writer of this book have gone through a lot of challenges but stay in his hopes to achieves something "great" in this case the white house.
    I have to agree to what N said more. But hey everyone entitled of their own opinions :) Just my 2 cents.

    ReplyDelete
  10. No Arnold, to answer your question, I am a bule.

    Thanks for your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "I understand that the phrase "menerjang harapan" is not commonly used here in Indonesia, but reading the tittle, gave me a picture of the writer of this book have gone through a lot of challenges but stay in his hopes to achieves something "great" in this case the white house...[sic]"


    Tell me Arnold, if you might. As we both know, The word "jihad" is not an Indonesian word.

    But to you, what exactly is the difference between the word and concept of "jihad" and what you just stated?

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  12. Interesting article. Although, what came across my mind after reading this was that how on earth a simple word "menerjang" could eventually be related to jihad?
    Forgive me to say this, Lao.. But, I do think that you read a bit too much into it. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy reading your blog indeed.
    However, I believe that the term of "menerjang" in this case is not necessarily a literal one. Merely a metaphorical one, or rather poetic. Perhaps, anyone who have read or learned Indonesian literature (or, care enough to pay attention when studying the subject of Bahasa Indonesia throughout the years of schooling - from primary to high school, at least), would understand that the title has a metaphorical/poetic meaning behind it.
    Now, I do understand that you're not a native Indonesian. Hence, it is probably a problem similar to what many Indonesians face when reading poetic English literature. So, please do allow me to venture explaining what I'm trying to imply here.
    "Menerjang" here doesnt't mean to be an act of "assault". It could be signified as "tackling". Pairing "menerjang" with "harapan" is akin to pairing "tackling" with "hope". It is more or less similar to "tackling a chance", or "a problem". The explanation is quite simple. You have a hope, and rather than to waiting and thus expect that the reality of your hope would appear in front of you like magic, you choose to do something about it, make it real. Hence, you are "tackling the hope".
    I think it makes sense as to what the book is intended. While, essentially, this book is another act of campaigning Obama's way towards the White House...it, too, aims to convey his hopes along with his journey to accomplishing those hopes and dreams. Why replacing "Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream" with "Dari Jakarta Menuju Gedung Putih" then? I reckon it's merely what every publisher would do as their marketing and selling-strategy. The target market of this translated book is obviously aimed for Indonesians. Hence, the publisher expects that many Indonesians would take notice of the word "Jakarta" to arouse their curiosity in the hope that these curious Indonesians would marvel at the idea that Obama, one the US Democratic Presidential Candidates and Clinton's contender, used to live in Jakarta (among the expected reaction would be something like "Oh brilliant, here's the book about Obama's life in Indonesia. how fantastic! I'd buy this book!).
    As simple as that, Lao. Nothing related to jihad or promoting himself in Southeast Asia as a crusader for the cause of Indonesia's Muslims as you put it.
    I hope my view would help. After all, everyone’s entitled to their opinion (as already mentioned by Arnold up there).

    ReplyDelete
  13. Leitizia, first off thanks for your well thought out reply and comments.

    I would agree with you that use of the word is figurative and that is has as metaphorical/poetic meaning.

    I read Indonesian newspapers everyday and like I said I've never seen the word used in that context. Not once ever. So I hope you can understand why I find it interesting to say the least.

    You said that "pairing "menerjang" with "harapan" is akin to pairing "tackling" with "hope". It is more or less similar to "tackling a chance", or "a problem".", well that brings me back to the question that I asked of Arnold.

    How would you translate the Arabic word "jihad" into Bahasa Indonesia? Wouldn't the word "jihad" have the same or at least a similar meaning?

    And finally why not the word "keberanian" instead of "menerjang"? Wouldn't it have been more accurate?

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  14. why not the word "keberanian" instead of "menerjang"?
    Right..I knew there was one thing i forgot to mention. Yes, indeed it would be more accurate. I actually second your suggestion about the accurately-translated title. To be honest, i don't know why.

    Often a chosen translated title does annoy us, doesnt it? It does to me. I reckon it is actually a question of choice opted by the authoritative board (be it publisher or producer).

    You can’t not agree with me that Obama’s book is not the first case about title translation, can you? . Here’s a very simple example. You might have heard the French movie Jeux d'enfants. Ring a bell, no? Its international english title is Love Me If You Dare. When I was doing my french class, I found that “jeux d’enfants” actually means a child’s game or play, which, referring to this movie, would be something more like a “dare or dare game” or a truth or dare game gone wild. It quite bothered me a bit for a while, wondering why they didn’t use the literally translated title.

    Anyway, my best guess would be what I've already explained in my previous comment, the marketing strategy thingy. I’m sure they must have taken a series of reasons into their considerations before eventually deciding to go with this particular translated title. It's a mystery that we shall leave to the publisher and its lot to unfold. However, it’s safe to say here that we both agree that that Indonesian title is probably not the best choice. Although, I still don’t think it is something related to jihad.

    Back to jihad. I was meaning to ask..which kind of “Jihad” exactly you’re talking about here. a.the literal meaning of jihad in Arabic language (an Arabic word for "to strive” or to “struggle"); b.the TRUE Islamic term of jihad, which is completely different to what Osama and his peers decipher as their own theory to explain their terroristic deeds; c.the contemporary misleading perception of jihad, a misleading yet justified meaning of jihad on behalf of God and referred to those deeds of terrorism employed by Osama and his lot (including those self-acclaimed Osama aficionados). Care to explain?

    I’m a bit curious here. Surely you’re an American expatriate, but which side are you on: democrat or republican?

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  15. Leitizia,

    Forgive me, I thought I had replied here.

    "...why not the word "keberanian" instead of "menerjang"? Right..I knew there was one thing i forgot to mention. Yes, indeed it would be more accurate.... the marketing strategy thingy. I’m sure they must have taken a series of reasons into their considerations before eventually deciding to go with this particular translated title..."

    I'll agree with you there. I think it was... as you put it, a "marketing strategy thingy".

    I guess the next question is... What exactly is Barack Obama trying to sell to the Indonesian people?

    And now onto the word "jihad".

    It is a simple question and there is no need to complicate it.

    How would you translate the Arabic word "jihad" into Bahasa Indonesia? Wouldn't the word "jihad" have the same or at least a similar meaning?

    "I’m a bit curious here. Surely you’re an American expatriate, but which side are you on: democrat or republican?"

    Difficult question now days and the best answer I can give I suppose is just to say that...

    I'm on the right side. ;-)

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  16. As another native Indonesian speaker, I concur that the word Menerjang has no violent connotation whatsoever. The word itself is not so commonly used because it is just too poetic for everyday use. However it is perfectly fine for book-titles or music lyrics. Really, I see no jihadist agenda in the naming of book..you're reading it too much.

    Btw, jihad is just jihad in Indonesian. Menerjang is not jihad, as in 'to lunge' (yes thats what it means in Indonesian also) is not 'to jihad'.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "I concur that the word Menerjang has no violent connotation whatsoever. The word itself is not so commonly used because it is just too poetic for everyday use.... jihad is just jihad in Indonesian. Menerjang is not jihad, as in 'to lunge' (yes thats what it means in Indonesian also) is not 'to jihad'."

    First off, I recall where I implied that the title of the book had any violent connotation.

    I'd really like some input as to what the phrase "Menerjang Harapan" means to you. Struggle?

    Secondly, Sepoi, the word jihad is as we stated an Arabic word not an Indonesian word and therefore it does not simply mean jihad.

    Tell me... struggle perhaps?

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  18. could you say

    lancang harapan

    perhaps?

    To dare to hope

    ReplyDelete
  19. right on .. keep up the vigilance. i've written extensively for months (lots of research) on obama's connection to kenya and islam in general here:

    http://make-informed-decisions.blogspot.com/

    keep it going ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  20. Lao: Any chance you can get ahold of the curriculum that Obama would have studied in his Islam classes as a child? I know from your earlier post that he studied menjaji (or Koran recitation, which I presume is in Arabic). I'm guessing that he also must have had lessons that synthesized Koran and Sunnah, taught about Sharia law, etcetera. In Malaysia there is an official state curriculum (criticized here for teaching children a list of reasons why apostates should be murdered).

    I don't know if Indonesia has state guidelines as well, or whether they would apply to a private Catholic school, but it might, or you might be able to get the Catholic school to send you a copy of the curriculum they used. (I tried to google the school myself but couldn't find a website for them. According to the LA Times, the school is now called "Model Primary School Menteng 1" in central Jakarta.)

    I find it implausible that Obama would not know enough about jihad ideology that he could have meant it when he opined, shortly after 9/11, that the terrorists were motivated by poverty. I think he was engaging in taqiyya (religiously sanctioned deception for the advancement of Islamic conquest). A look at the curriculum Obama was taught would help expose this deception. Was he taught to be compassionate to Muslims, but hard against the unbelievers? (Koran verse 48.29) Was he taught that the world is divided into dar al Islam and dar al harb, and that the duty of jihad is to conquer dar al harb?

    If those were not lesson 1, they were probably pretty close, certainly if the Wahabbist textbooks used in Virginia are any measure. But it would only be a matter of how long before Obama was taught these basics, and he was in Islam classes for three years.

    That curriculum could be very helpful. My post on the likelihood that Obama is a secret Muslim here.

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  21. EXACTLY AS ANN COULTER CALLED IT...

    ... DIMESTORE "MEIN KAMPF"

    ReplyDelete
  22. For those just coming to this thread - my position is pretty much summed up by this.

    Americans in general have a propensity to think that a native speaker of a foreign language ultimately makes for a better translator. I don't agree... and these are the reasons why:

    In this scenario, the Indonesian language has far less words than the English language, considering this, who do you think would be better suited to give a more accurate translation? A native English speaker or a native Indonesian speaker?

    Translation is a two-way task, not a one-way task. A native Indonesian speaker still needs to translate FROM Indonesian INTO English ~ ideally you would want someone with native proficiency in BOTH languages would you not, which unfortunately is an impossibility.

    Translation is not an exact science. There are many words in both English and Indonesian that have no counterparts.

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  23. .
    It doesn't surprise me that NObama kisses up to Indonesian Muslims, he openly supports those pushing for Sharia in Kenya; but his people remove Muslim women in veils from Photo-ops in America.

    Basically, vote on the real issues and a candidates true character and political leanings.

    People are hypnotized with Obamamania and his Obammunism. Good fodder for Obama posters here. Posters about him reflect this puppy dogs, doves and rainbows feeling. The Obama Utopia.

    If Obama doesn't get POTUS in 2008 and if he can stay pretty clean, do some good things as Senator, and then become Governor of IL, he could be unstoppable in 2012 or 2016. Scary stuff.

    I would dearly love to see a Jewish, African-American woman as POTUS. It's not race or gender that makes it for me though. It's political beliefs that matter, and socialism is bad for everybody, (accept those high in government or high-level academia) especially poor people, of all races. Obama is a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist, no thanks.

    His 'Change', 'Hope' and 'Progress' mantras are actually somewhat self-mocking. Making your own Obama posters is totally addicting.
    I laughed so hard I almost had a breakdown. LOL!

    :)
    .
    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    pretend to be moderate

    move towards the center fast
    enrage your Left wing early

    .
    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    befriend a bomber

    pushing for change at all costs
    sacrifices must be made

    .
    absurd thought -
    God of the Universe says
    only feel and hope

    please force people to change
    change can only be good

    .
    All real freedom starts with freedom of speech. If there is no freedom of speech, then there can be no real freedom.
    .
    Make Some Obama Posters NOW!
    .
    Che Makes Money for Capitalists
    .
    Help Halt Terrorism Now!
    .
    USpace

    :)
    .

    ReplyDelete
  24. Oh, I stumbled on this article and had a good laugh.

    First of all, there's no such thing as a "correct" translation. Translations need to take into account the cultural context of the language.

    "Keberanian Harapan" is simply awkward. "Menerjang Harapan" is closer to street language, with the connotation of reaching for hope, not assaulting it. It's the problem of cultural context that makes assault sound alien, when in fact it has obtained a varied meaning in modern Indonesian speech.

    Furthermore, "from Jakarta to the White House" is obviously more appealing to Indonesian readers.

    You can talk about the "American Dream" and how to reclaim it, but how would that make it sound relevant to Indonesians? There are 300 million of them, and they don't even grasp the concept of the "American Dream", much less care about it.

    But "Jakarta to the White House". Now THAT's relevant to Indonesians! Someone who grew up in Jakarta now within reach of the White House!

    cheers

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  25. "Penyerangan" is the Indonesian word for "assault."

    I find the title to be a great way to sell books. My translators tell me it means either "standing on hope" or "with a lot of hope," and then suggests a trek from Jakarta to the White House.

    That's factual, especially as the election showed. Obama did attend Catholic and Muslim schools in Jakarta -- so it's accurate to note that he has gone from Jakarta to the White House, isn't it?

    Beyond that, here in John Wayne's America, we think it's fantastic when a good writer like Barack Obama can sell books in Indonesia and Malaysia. The more Indonesians and Malaysians read his book, the better off America is. The more familiar they are with American democratic institutions and how they work, and why we are all inspired by them, and filled with hope by them.

    What flag-waving American would not welcome such a translation of an American best-seller, to become an Indonesian best-seller? Well, the communists would be unhappy, I'm sure, and Islamic terrorists, who don't want Indonesians to know about democracy in America would be unhappy . . .

    Whose side are you really on?

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  26. You are mistaken if you think that this is good for America.

    I've explained before in vivid detail exactly how an Obama presidency will embolden our enemies.

    Islam's Battle For The White House

    As to who's side am I on. I'm on our side.

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  27. Jihad takes many forms,including the "Jihad of Words"- from Dar-Al-Islam to Dar-al-Harb - What a story - the hometown boy is now the president of the USA, and Muslims the world over believe he is a Muslim.

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  28. Anonymous5:02 AM

    Lao, I'm new to your work and am only reading this in Aug of 2014. Oh how nice it would have been if I had known about your site way back when. Of course I voted against him twice anyway, (I'm not THAT dumb) but I would have liked to have had the info nonetheless. Like many other "right" people I believe these 2 elections were decided by people who no longer exist in the physical realm. Amazingly as people pass from the physical to the spiritual their voting changes from right to left.

    Are you still out there and writing? If so what's your current topic of choice?

    ReplyDelete

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