Toer, Pramoedya Ananta 1925-2006

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TOER, Pramoedya Ananta 1925-2006


See index for CA sketch: Born February 6, 1925, in Blora, East Java, Indonesia; died of complications from heart disease and diabetes, April 30, 2006, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Journalist, activist, and author. Well known for his "Buru Quartet" of novels that protested oppression in his native Indonesia, Toer, who went under his first name as Pramoedya, was imprisoned for over a decade by the Suharto government he opposed. The son of a school headmaster who actively opposed Dutch rule of Indonesia, Pramoedya studied journalism at the Radio Vocational School, graduating in 1941. Soon after, the Japanese occupied his country during World War II. He worked for a Japanese news agency called Domei during this time, and because of that was imprisoned for two years after the war when the Dutch retook their colony. While in prison, he wrote his first novel, Perburuan (1950), later translated as The Fugitive (1975). After his release, he continued to work as a freelance writer in the 1950s, publishing novels and short stories. He was an ardent supporter of the leftist Sukarno government, and would ever after declare Sukarno Indonesia's greatest political leader after independence from the Dutch. During the early 1960s, he found more steady employment as the editor of the weekly section of a newspaper with leftist leanings; he also worked as a journalism teacher in Jakarta. A coup in 1965 resulted in Pramoedya's arrest, and when Suharto came to power soon after, the writer was beaten so badly that he lost most of his hearing. Pramoedya was imprisoned for fourteen years, though he was never charged with a crime. During the first twelve years, he was not even allowed to have a pen or writing paper. However, he was finally granted these small privileges, and began to write down the first two novels of his quartet. Eventually released in translation as This Earth of Mankind (1982), Child of All Nations (1982), Footsteps (1990), and House of Glass (1992), the tetralogy is about a journalist and activist in Java living during the end of Dutch rule. Eventually released from prison, Pramoedya was still kept under house arrest in Jakarta until 1992. Despite the political atmosphere in his country, though, the author continued to write in protest of Suharto and, when democracy finally came to Indonesia, was even an active critic against the new government. Most of Pramoedya's writings remain untranslated, with the exception of his quartet and another novel, The Girl from the Coast (1991), and the two-volume memoir The Mute's Soliloquy (1999).



Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, The Mute's Soliloquy, Hyperion Press (New York, NY), 1999.


New York Times, May 1, 2006, p. B8.