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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • May 11, 2006

     

    Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006)

    To catch up a little bit since my injury, I read about the death of Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, an outspoken democracy advocate who overcame imprisonment and censorship to publish dozens of stories and novels about his country. He died on Sunday, April 30, at the age of 81. Pramoedya to me is more than a writer, he's a hero and defender of human rights and civil rights. He has dedicated his whole life to his country through literary work. He was jailed under successive regimes, first in 1947, when he was accused of being anti-colonialist. In 1965, he was again imprisoned for sympathizing the Chinese communists.

    Pramoedya's left-leaning, outspoken style in literature earned him enemies within Suharto's regime and his works were banned from circulation. He was thrown in a cell without trial, first off the coast of mainland Java, and then in the penal colony of Buru, along with thousands of other opponents of the U.S.-backed regime. He advocated the removal of bureaucrats and politicians "tainted" by Suharto-era abuses, but corruption remains rampant and some of the old dictator's cronies remain in office.

    The most important series of work, The Buru Quartet, consists of four novels focusing on one main character who is based on historical figure. The protagonist, Minke, is a Native Javanese, a raden mas or noble who has received a Western education. In This Earth of Mankind he marries Annelies, the daughter of a Javanese concubine and a Dutch factory owner. When her father dies, she becomes the legal property of her Dutch relatives and is taken to the Netherlands, her Islamic marriage having no standing. In Child of All Nations Minke's real political awakening begins. He starts to write in Malay rather than Dutch, he follows events in Japan and China and in the Philippines, and he experiences firsthand the effects of sugar farming and the exploitation of his own people. These two volumes were originally spoken, in a prison camp where Pramoedya was denied access to writing materials.

    In the third novel Footsteps Minke moves to Betawi (Jakarta) to study at medical school, though he soon abandons that as a career. He marries a second time, to a Chinese activist, and enters into public political life, founding the first Native organization and launching a newspaper. This is set against the background of the Dutch conquest of Bali. The last installment, The House of Glass is narrated by Pangemanann, a Western educated Native who has risen in the service of the government. He chronicles his manipulation, surveillance, and terrorization of the various opposition movements and leaders, Minke among them. Though Minke's memoirs has ended in the third novel, the last volume is significant under historical context because it is a moral condemnation of colonialism. The novels become progressively heavier with historical and political exposition as the political awakening of Minke dawns.

    Buru Quartet is a perfect example of a bildungsroman, the story of a single individual's growth and development within the context of a defined social order. For Minke it is the search for meaningful existence within an oppressive, corrupted society. The maturing process of his political sense is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the his needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order.

    2 Comments:

    Blogger Carmi said...

    I am so sorry to read of his passing. What amazes me about such people of substance is their ability to influence the lives and the work of others long after they are gone.

    You have, quite literally, internalized all that made him great, and will carry his message forward in your own words and actions.

    Humanity can be so cool like that!

    5/11/2006 8:11 AM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Pramoedya reminds me of Aung Sand Su Ki from Burma, who is in a similar situation. Since the debacle of Suharto regime, thousands of copies of his works poured into the market but I wonder how many of the repressed Indonesians could have a chance to read and appreciate them.

    5/11/2006 3:48 PM  

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