THE MUTE’S SOLILOQUY
Pramoedya Ananta Toer 1999
In his final years, Pramoedya (1925 – 2006) felt slighted to have been overlooked for the Nobel Literature Prize. And rightly so. His famous Buru Quartet is a masterpiece of historical fiction. His own life was equally remarkable. He was jailed by the Dutch from 1947 to 1949 for his involvement in the Indonesian revolution. During the Sukarno era, he emerged as the nation’s best novelist, but was jailed from 1960 to 1961 after criticising the government for neglecting regions outside Java. Following the 1965 “coup attempt”, which resulted in Suharto taking power from Sukarno, Pramoedya was arrested and his books banned. He was jailed without trial from 1965 to 1979, mostly on remote Buru Island, where conditions were brutal. He was then placed under house arrest in Jakarta until 1992 and banned from travelling abroad until 1999. His few surviving essays, letters and journal entries from Buru form his moving memoir, Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu (The Mute’s Soliloquy), first published in Dutch in 1989, followed by an Indonesian edition ( banned) in 1995, then an English translation in 1999. It’s an incredible record of intellectual stoicism and humility amid cruel oppression.