Soeman Hasibuan

4 Apr 1904
8 May 1999
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Soeman Hasibuan (Perfected Spelling: Suman Hasibuan; 1904 – 8 May 1999), better known by his pen name Soeman Hs, was an Indonesian author recognized for pioneering detective fiction and short story writing in the country’s literature. Born in Bengkalis, Riau, Dutch East Indies, to a family of farmers, Soeman studied to become a teacher and, under the author Mohammad Kasim (id), a writer. He began working as a Malay-language teacher after completing normal school in 1923, first in Siak Sri Indrapura, Aceh, then in Pasir Pengaraian, Rokan Hulu, Riau. Around this time he began writing, publishing his first novel, Kasih Tak Terlarai, in 1929. In twelve years he published five novels, one short story collection, and thirty-five short stories and poems.

During the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (1942–1945) and subsequent revolution, Soeman—though he remained a teacher—became active in politics, serving first on a representatives’ council and then as part of the Indonesian National Committee for Pasir Pengaraian in Pekanbaru. Following the Netherlands’ recognition of Indonesia’s independence in 1949, Soeman was made the head of the regional department of education, working to rebuild damaged infrastructure and to establish new schools, including the first senior high school in Riau and the Islamic University of Riau . He remained active in education until his death.

As an author, Soeman wrote stories which emphasized suspense and humour, drawing on Western detective and adventure fiction as well as classical Malay literature. His written Malay, with a vocabulary heavily influenced by his east Sumatran background, flowed readily and avoided excessive verbosity. Soeman’s most popular work was his novel Mentjahari Pentjoeri Anak Perawan (1932), whereas his short story collection Kawan Bergeloet (1941) has been considered his most interesting from a literary perspective.Though considered a minor author of the Poedjangga Baroe period, Soeman has been recognized with an eponymous library and his books have been taught at schools.

Soeman died in Pekanbaru on 8 May 1999, having remained active in various aspects of education in Riau until the previous year.

Soeman credited the adventure stories of Alexandre Dumas and similar authors, which he read in translation, for his interest in the adventure and detective genres. Soeman was interested in these stories’ use of suspense, which set them apart from the works of traditionally influenced Malay authors such as Marah Rusli.

In a film commemorating Soeman made by the Lontar Foundation, Budianta concluded:


You can say he only wrote a few works. You can say that his works are not that popular, not that monumental, but the presence of Soeman Hs as a writer of humorous and detective stories cannot be ignored. If we try to tell of the pioneers of humour and detective fiction, well Soeman Hs was their father. He can be considered the father of humorous and detective stories.

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