Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Revolutionary Of The Week

Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Pramoedya was born February 6th, 1925, in Indonesi, & at an early age became involved in the struggle against Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia. His opposition to the policies of founding President Sukarno, & successor New Order regime of Suharto, made him face extrajudicial punishment.

During WW11, Pramoedya first supported the occupying forces of Imperial Japan, thought of then as the lesser of two evils (Dutch/Japan). As the war went on, Indonesians were dismayed by wartime rationing & by the harsh measures taken by the Japanese military.

On August 17th, 1945, after news of an allied victory over Japan reached Indonesia, Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia's total independence from all colonialists. The Indonesian National Revolution against British & Dutch forces started.

In this war, Pramoedya joined a paramilitary group in Kanawang, Kranji, & was stationed in Jakarta. During this time, he wrote short stories & books, as well as propaganda for the Nationalist Cause.

Pramoedya was jailed by the Dutch in Jakarta in 1947 for his opposition to the colonial regime, & remained there until 1949- the year the Netherland's accepted Indonesia's Independence. While jailed, he wrote his first novel, " The Fugitive". Pramoedya went on to write several more works of fiction dealing with the problems of the newly founded nation, as well as seni-autobiographical works as wartime memoirs.

Back in Indonesia, Pramoedya joined the left-wing writers group, Lekra, & wrote for newspapers & journals. His writing became more politically charged.

Pramoedya was again arrested by Indonesian military & served 9 months for writing a series of letters addressed to an imagined Chinese correspondant discussing the history of the Indonesian Chinese. He criticized the goverment for being insensitive to the needs & desires of the regions & people of Indonesia. He was named a political prisoner, his books banned, & jailed without a trial.

When arrested, his library was burned. While in jail he was not permitted to have a pencil, so instead of physically writing, he narrated stories to other prisoners. He eventually was able to write his novels down, & although banned in Indonesia, copies were scanned & distributed to people inside the country. He was released from prison in 1979, but remained under house-arrest in Jakarta until 1992.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer was 81 years old when he died April 30th, 2006. His passing is a huge loss to the world of literature & of revolutionary politics. Even after years of repression, Pramoedya still held out hope for Indonesians. He remained a revolutionary to the very end, urging his readers, especially young Indonesians, to take up the struggle again.