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Beholding a Landmark of Guilt: Pramoedya in the Early 1960s and the Current Regime*

Papers (in PDF)

By Ben Abel

In this article: Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Published in Southeast Asia Program Publications at Cornell University,
Oct 01, 1997

In July 1995 the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation announced the decision to present its annual award to Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Subsequently, in a protest statement delivered to Manila, twenty-six prominent Indonesian intellectuals expressed their opposition to the award decision, suggesting that the Foundation was not fully aware of Pramoedya’s role in “witch-hunting” his fellow writers during “the darkest period for artistic creativity during the ‘guided democracy’ years (1959- 1 9 6 5 ) .Charges of witch-hunting leveled against Pramoedya are nothing new. They have persistently characterized discussions about Pramoedya’s role in modern Indonesian literature since the early years of the New Order regime. Branded as a communist even though he was never a member of the PKI, Pramoedya has faced some of the most severe sanctions meted out by the Suharto government to its political opponents. In an atmosphere shaped by both government intimidation and emotional recollections of bitter past disputes, close study of Pramoedya’s works, particularly those stemming from the period of his most explicitly political writing, has rarely been undertaken in Indonesia. Consequently, the content of much of this work has been obscured, even as it is periodically invoked by the New Order regime to reinforce its characterization of Pramoedya as a political subversive in Indonesian society.

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