Pramoedya Ananta Toer, This Earth of Mankind, Penguin: Minke is a young Javanese student of great intelligence and ambition. Living equally among the colonists and colonized of 19th-century Java, he battles against the confines of colonial strictures. It is his love for Annelies that enables him to find the strength to embrace his world.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Footsteps, Penguin: As the world moves into the twentieth century, Minke, one of the few European-educated Javanese, optimistically starts a new life in a new town: Betawi. With his enrollment in medical school and the opportunity to meet new people, there is every reason to believe that he can leave behind the tragedies of the past. But Minke can no more escape his past than he can escape his situation as part of an oppressed people under a foreign power. As his world begins to fall apart, Minke draws a small but fervent group around him to fight back against colonial exploitation. During the struggle, Minke finds love, friendship, and betrayal—with tragic consequences. And he goes from wanting to understand his world to wanting to change it. Pramoedya’s full literary genius is again evident in the remarkable characters that populate the novel—and in his depiction of a people’s painful emergence from colonial domination and the shackles of tradition.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, House of Glass, Penguin: With House Of Glass comes the final chapter of Pramoedya’s epic quartet, set in the Dutch East Indies at the turn of the century. A novel of heroism, passion, and betrayal, it provides a spectacular conclusion to a series hailed as one of the great works of modern literature. At the start of House of Glass, Minke, writer and leader of the dissident movement, is now imprisoned—and the narrative has switched to Pangemanann, a former policeman, who has the task of spying and reporting on those who continue the struggle for independence. But the hunter is becoming the hunted. Pangemanann is a victim of his own conscience and has come to admire his adversaries. He must decide whether the law is to safeguard the rights of the people or to control the people. He fears the loss of his position, his family, and his self-respect. At last Pangemanann sees that his true opponents are not Minke and his followers, but rather the dynamism and energy of a society awakened.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Child of All Nations, Penguin: In Child of All Nations, the reader is immediately swept up by a story that is profoundly feminist, devastatingly anticolonialist—and full of heartbreak, suspense, love, and fury. Pramoedya immerses the reader in a world that is astonishing in its vividness: the cultural whirlpool that was the Dutch East Indies of the 1890s. A story of awakening, it follows Minke, the main character of This Earth of Mankind, as he struggles to overcome the injustice all around him. Pramoedya’s full literary genius is evident in the brilliant characters that populate this world: Minke’s fragile Mixed-Race wife; a young Chinese revolutionary; an embattled Javanese peasant and his impoverished family; the French painter Jean Marais, to name just a few.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, All That Is Gone, Penguin: Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s transcendent novels have become part of the world literary canon, but it is his short fiction that originally made him famous. The first full-size collection of his short stories to appear in English, All That Is Gone draws from the author’s own experiences in Indonesia to depict characters trying to make sense of a war-torn culture haunted by colonialism, among them an eight-year-old girl soon to be married off by her parents for money and an idealistic young soldier who witnesses the savage beating of a man accused of being a spy. Though violence and brutality pervade these tales, there is present throughout a profound sense of compassion—an extraordinary combination of despair and hope that gives All That Is Gone rare power and beauty.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, It’s Not an All Night Fair, Penguin: Pramoedya Ananta Toer is Indonesia’s most celebrated writer, with over thirty works of fiction translated into over thirty languages, and the recipient of many major international awards, including the grand prize in the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize competition, Japan’s highest literary honor. Narrated in the first person in Pramoedya’s signature style, It’s Not an All Night Fair tells the deeply affecting story of a son returning home to central Java to confront the fact of his father’s death. Struggling to understand his reticent father, the son embarks on a personal quest to find value and meaning not only in his father’s life but also in his own.
Mochtar Lubis, Twilight in Djakarta, Editions Didier Millet: Mochtar Lubis, in this vivid dissection of social and political life in Jakarta at the beginning of the 1960s, reveals the dark currents of poverty, corruption and vice which course beneath the surface of one of the great cities of the Third World. Although set in Indonesia, the tale that unfolds has universal application as it describes the forces which determine the lives of rich and poor, politicians and criminals, intellectuals and simple rural immigrants alike, as they struggle for survival. Through the character of the central figure, Suryono, a young, Western-educated government official, the author depicts the complex web of threads which enmesh both individual and society in a newly developing nation, with compassion as well as insight.