22 Jul 2022

Taking a Stroll to HB Jassin Library


Editor:Ramdan Malik Batubara, Aditya Gagat Hanggara

22 Jul 2022

“Earth feels heavy on my head. The events around me shocked my heart. Chairil Anwar’s poem has stirred up the headquarters.”

This is one of the writings that greeted me that morning when I entered the H.B. Jassin Literary Documentation Center (PDS) at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), Jalan Cikini Raya 73, Central Jakarta. The article is a note of H.B. Jassin related to Chairil Anwar’s poem that shocked Nippon or the Japanese invaders at that time. Of course this wasn’t the only article I saw that day on PDS H.B. Jassin, having reopened recently after TIM was revitalized.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this place or don’t even know anything about H.B. Jassin, maybe I should mention one name first: Chairil Anwar. If you are Indonesian, that name could be familiar to you, right? Chairil with his most famous poem, “Aku” means “I/Me”, may still ring in your head. Well, H.B. Jassin is a literary critic who introduced Chairil Anwar and his poems to the Indonesian people at a time when not many people knew him. His critics on Chairil’s poems received great attention, so that the name of the 1945 poet was raised and remembered until now.

Apart from being a respected literary critic who has earned him the nickname Pope of Indonesian Literature, Jassin is also a person who diligently and meticulously documents various matters related to literature. He collects letters and postcards of writers, as well as clippings related to literature in various print media. Who would have thought, his personal collection has now become a very valuable Indonesian literary documentation.

Peeking into the World of H.B. Jassin and Chairil Anwar

After about two years of being closed due to the revitalization of TIM, finally on 7 July 2022 the Jakarta Library and PDS H.B. Jassin, which is in one building, is officially opened. If June is identical with Sapardi Djoko Damono’s June Rain, then July will be the month of H.B. Jassin and Chairil Anwar. Why? As it turned out, these two mutually supportive friends were both born in July. Hans Bague Jassin was born on July 31, 1917, while Chairil Anwar was born on July 26, 1922.

This year is exactly 100 years since Chairil Anwar was born. The century of the poet who died young at the age of 27 is commemorated by PDS H.B. Jassin with an archival exhibition entitled “Gunung Api Jassin, Lahar Panas Chairil” (“Jassin Volcano, Chairil’s Hot Lava”.)

At first I just wanted to take a peek at the new PDS H.B. Jassin and the Jakarta Library at TIM which has been beautifully polished and is being talked about a lot by people. However, a special surprise was waiting for me that day with the archive exhibition. Looks like I’m really in love with H.B. Jassin and Chairil Anwar that day. How come? Usually to see various literary documentation in PDS H.B. Jassin, we must first know what we are looking for. Then we have to enter search keywords in the archive catalog via the computer, notify the librarian on duty, wait for the document to be found, and then we can read the document. Thanks to this interesting exhibition that will run until August 11, 2022, various literary documentation related to H.B. Jassin and Chairil Anwar, I could see right away, after being chosen by two curators who are also poets, Hasan Aspahani and Esha Tegar Putra. Apart from letters, postcards, and literary notes, both handwritten and typed, we get a glimpse into the life of H.B. Jassin goes through photos of his childhood to adulthood, his old typewriter, and his well-written diary and his daily schedule.

That day, in the lobby of PDS H.B. Jassin, it was as if I was chatting with Jassin and Chairil about their lives, from how they fell in love with literature to the story of their falling in love with beautiful women they admired. I want more people to be able to talk to these two at this archive exhibition.

Getting Closer to Literature in the Reading Room

From the 4th floor, I went up to the 5th floor by escalator. Just as my footsteps hit the 5th floor, I was greeted warmly by the clerk at the information desk. If I’m allowed to praise the service of the PDS H.B. Jassin is the best service I’ve had from any library I’ve been to. They not only welcomed me warmly, but also explained well about the various places in this new building, how if you want to see literary documentation and read the various collections of books available, and can be a fun discussion partner about Indonesian literature if you want.

First I entered the collection room which contained literary books from the old to the newest publications. Access to the collection on the 5th floor is open to anyone. Meanwhile, the 6th floor, which contains archives and literary documentation, can only be accessed by librarians. Unlike the Jakarta Library which provides various books from various categories, PDS H.B. Jassin, as the name suggests, only provides literature books. This is heaven for literature lovers.

Previously, the librarian had told him that each person could only read two books in the reading room. My choice fell on HB Jassin’s book: A Glance of His Life published by PT Gunung Agung. Isn’t this the right choice of book? Read Jassin’s biography at the H.B. Jassin Literary Documentation Center.

Reading in the new Reading Room of PDS H.B. Jassin is a very comfortable reading experience. Tables and chairs are arranged beautifully in the Common Reading Room. There is a Private Reading Room if you want to be more focused and alone. Air conditioning makes the room cool. I recommend you to bring a jacket if you want to stay quite long here.

At that time I really wanted to focus on reading books. However, on my next arrival, I was determined to study and work here, not in the office or cafe as usual.

This comfortable and of course free atmosphere makes PDS H.B. Jassin is also suitable as a place to study and work. In addition, unlike its neighbor, the Jakarta Library, which requires an online reservation to enter it, You can visit PDS H.B. Jassin directly by simply registering on the spot.

Jassin from the Eyewitness

What was even more impressive from my trip that day to PDS H.B. Jassin is my meeting with Ritawati Jassin. He is a relative of H.B. Jassin, who has worked at PDS H.B. jassin. Rita took me when she was little and used to play at Jassin’s house. He often saw Jassin drowning among his literary books. That’s what inspired Rita to plunge into the world of literature. “Inspired by him, I also wrote poetry which has now been published by Balai Pustaka. The book is also in the collection room here,” he said cheerfully.

Ritawati Jassin took a photo with one of her poetry anthologies.

He told me that Jassin was a kind and friendly person. Jassin even invited Rita to work and look after PDS H.B. Jassin from its inception on June 28, 1976. Since then until now, Rita still maintains the legacy of H.B. Jassin so as not to be forgotten by the times.

Space for All

When I arrived at PDS H.B. Jassin, the hall was crowded by various groups, from school children, students, to adults who were warming up their vocals to sing. It turned out that that day PDS H.B. Jassin held an activity for the public, namely the Millennial Poetry Musicalization Workshop which presented Sanggar Matahari. It’s great to see different generations coming together and doing activities here. Actually I want to take this poetry musicalization class. But, instead of my voice breaking the note, I ended up just peeking and continuing my exploration to another corner.

In addition to being the home of literary archives, PDS H.B. Jassin also organizes various events related to literature. I immediately followed the @pds_hbjassin account on Instagram that day to find out about various events that would be held in the future so as not to miss any information.

In addition, the hall can also be used by any community who want to do activities here. The librarian told me to contact PDS service H.B. Jassin on Whatsapp number 085161119737, if there is a community interested in using this hall for free. For other information, I usually access JakLitera via the Jakarta Library banner on the JAKI application.

Ending the Day at Cikini

Satisfied with enjoying PDS H.B Jassin, I walked out of Taman Ismail Marzuki towards Jalan Cikini. The last time I went for a walk in Cikini, TIM’s revitalization was still not finished. That day I was very happy, finally being able to enter the TIM, especially to PDS H.B. Jassin to tread the traces of Indonesian literature.

After a day spent at PDS H.B. Jassin by reading, talking, and taking pictures in every corner that is beautiful and aesthetic, I finally decided to go home with a promise in my heart to return one day.

More in Smart Living Category

Do you want to borrow a book from Jakarta's Library but are confused about which one to choose? Here are three books that might be useful for you.

Do you want to take a walk in the parks? Using JAKI, you can look for parks in Jakarta, from checking locations to booking a visit. Read more here.

Is it possible to access these services in your complex through an app? Yes, you can! Meet City Mobile Apps, a new innovation for service integration.

Tebet Eco Park attracts many visitors to this day. In there, you can exercise or have a picnic. How to book a visit to Tebet Eco Park? Read here.

Takjil is a must for iftar during Ramadan. Here are five takjil hunting spots recommendations from Jakarta Smart City.

This rainy season, you can report puddles or floods around you. Come on, find out how by reading here!