The Extraordinary Life and Writing of Indonesia’s Tolstoy

What Media Says


About Pramoedya Ananta Toer,
Written by Jamie James, and was originally published in Los Angeles Times,
Aug 04, 2002


Seven years ago, I made one of the great discoveries in my life as a reader when a friend pressed into my hands a copy of “This Earth of Mankind,” by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the first volume of what has come to be called the Buru Quartet. Pramoedya is one of those rare writers whose stature the reader perceives at once, from afar, like a tower. The Buru books, set amid the emergence of modern Indonesia, struck me then as one of the most ambitious undertakings in postwar world literature, and time has only heightened my admiration for this great literary artist. The Buru novels are Tolstoyan in humanism and scope, and reminiscent of Conrad in their philosophical profundity and exquisite tonal articulacy; they are also gripping narratives (the first two volumes, anyway; their impact diminishes in the later volumes). Yet as great as these dramas are, they are overshadowed by the author’s own life story.

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