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Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Buru Quartet was banned by Indonesian authorities as subversive. Read an excerpt?

Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Buru Quartet

In 1965, Indonesia's military regime arrests acclaimed Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer. This is his third arrest, each under a successive Indonesian administration.

During his 14 years in Buru prison, denied pen or paper, Pramoedya composes an epic four-part novel, the Buru Quartet. Inspired by the life of pioneering Indonesian journalist, Tirto Adi Suryo, the novel follows the personal and political life of a leader of the revolution against the Dutch, from early in the century through independence. As a boost to morale, Pramoedya recites the work in daily doses to his fellow inmates, and later, when he is allowed to write, the others shoulder his labor duties so he can put his words onto paper. Priests and riverboat men smuggle out the text, though guards capture and destroy six other books of Pramoedya's, which he never regains.

Following Pramoedya's release in 1979, the Buru Quartet is gradually published. The government, seeing the books as a covert attack, bans each volume soon after publication and makes it a crime to possess them. Nevertheless, the work is widely read both in Indonesia and abroad, with 500,000 copies in print.

Pramoedya is frequently mentioned as Asia's most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize, but the status of his works under the latest Indonesian government remains uncertain.


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