Pramoedya Ananta Toer dies

Tariq Ali pays tribute to Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died this week:

Toer, born in 1925 in Blora in central Java, was the country’s most distinguished novelist and, significantly, published in the United States. His life was spared. The generals dared not execute him, but hoped that the conditions in which he was kept would take care of the problem.
Arrested after the military coup in Jakarta in 1965, he was sent to Buru island, a tropical gulag where many died of exhaustion, hard labour or starvation. Toer survived. He would later recall how every night, for three thousand and one nights (eight years), he fought against cruelty, disease and creeping insanity by telling stories to his fellow prisoners. It kept hope alive for him and them. As they listened, the prisoners momentarily forgot where they were or who had sentenced them.

More links:

–Reviews of All That Is Gone and The Girl From The Coast

–The New York Times obituary

–a photo-essay taken at his home


–The (very comprehensive) Pramoedya Ananta Toer page

One comment

  1. The man deserved a Nobel, as much for his writings as the fact that he suffered for years in prison for opposing the Suharto regime. There is a lot of collective denial in Indonesia over the events of 1965 and the massacres that followed. So I guess it is hard for them to face up to what happened to Toer in the aftermath. Interestingly, his first language is Javanese, though he wrote in Bahasa Indonesia.

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