Authors: Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Literary
Pramoedya Ananta Toer was born on the island of Java in 1925. He was imprisoned first by the Dutch from 1947 to 1949 for his role in the Indonesian revolution, then by the Indonesian government as a political prisoner. Many of his works have been written while in prison, including the Buru Quartet (
This Earth of Mankind, Child of All Nations, Footsteps
House of Glass
) which was conceived in stories the author told to other prisoners during his confinement on Buru Island from 1969 to 1979.
Pramoedya is the author of thirty works of fiction and nonfiction. His novels have been translated into twenty languages. He received the PEN Freedom-to-write Award in 1988 and the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1995. He is currently under city arrest in Jakarta where his books are banned and selling them a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Max Lane was second secretary in the Australian embassy in Jakarta until recalled in 1981 because of his translation of Pramoedya’s Buru Quartet.
Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Translated and with an
Introduction by Max Lane
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in Australia by Penguin Books Australia Ltd 1990
First published in the United States of America
by William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1995
Reprinted by arrangement with William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Published in Penguin Books (U.S.A.) 1996
17 19 20 18 16
Copyright © Pramoedya Ananta Toer, 1985
English translation copyright © Max Lane, 1990
All rights reserved
Originally published in Indonesian by Hasta Mitra, Jakarta, 1985.
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGUED THE HARDCOVER AS FOLLOWS:
Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, 1925–
[Jejak langkah. English]
Footsteps/by Pramoedya Ananta Toer; translated from the Indonesian by Max Lane.
1. Indonesia—History—1798—1942—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
Set in Bembo
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For those who have been forgotten, deliberately or otherwise
his novel is set in a time prior to the establishment of an official national language, when the choice of language was intimately tied up with social status and power. I have thus tried to preserve as much as possible of the different usages, including honorifics, of the original. These are usually Malay, Javanese, and Dutch terms. These honorifics and other words and names listed in the Glossary in the back of this book are italicized only the first time they appear.
There are a number of people I should thank for help in completing this book. As with the first two volumes of this tetralogy, I must thank all my many Indonesian friends for continuing to encourage me with this project. Of course, there is no need to thank them for setting such an inspiring example of commitment to the advance of Indonesian culture and society. Among these many people, it is natural that I should mention in particular the three men who set up the publishing company Hasta Mitra (Hands of Friendship) and started publishing Pramoedya’s books. These three are: Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Yusuf Isak, and Hasyim Rahman.
I should also thank Elizabeth Flann for the editorial work she did on the manuscript. And finally, I would like to thank Anna Nurfia and Melanie Purwitasari for their tolerance of my times away from home that were needed to finish this work.
is the third volume of a quartet of novels inspired by the life of one of the pioneers of the Indonesian national awakening and of Indonesian journalism, Tirto Adi Suryo. These novels, along with other manuscripts, were written in the last period of fourteen years of imprisonment under barbaric conditions on the prison island of Buru in Eastern Indonesia. Pramoedya, along with thousands of others, was imprisoned in Jakarta jails and the Buru Island concentration camps without ever being tried and sentenced. Many, including Pramoedya, were beaten or suffered torture. Many died during their imprisonment.
Pramoedya obtained writing materials and the opportunity to write only in the last few years of his time at Buru. Prior to this he had narrated to his fellow prisoners the story of Minke, Annelies, Nyai Ontosoroh, Robert Suurhof, and the characters of
The Glass House.
He had to rely on his memory of the historical research he had undertaken in the early 1960s to be able to capture the detail and color of the Netherlands Indies of the early twentieth century.
is essentially an adventure story, and a story of discovery.
It is the story of a pioneer who discovered a new country. But for Minke, the narrator and protagonist of the story, his discovery was not of an unknown land across the seas, but of the very land in which he lived—then called the Netherlands Indies. In the process of discovering this country he sees for the first time the plight of its people and culture, the oppression by white colonial power and brown collaborators. In the process of the arduous struggle to understand what to do about it all, he, and others after him, eventually created the vision of a new country:
Pramoedya Ananta Toer, through his wonderfully vivid storytelling, brings us back to the very beginning, to before the birth of the nation of Indonesia, or even the idea of Indonesia—to its conception.
Preceding the release of
, Pramoedya also published a nonfiction account of the life of Tirto Adi Suryo and an anthology of Tirto’s journalism and fiction. Tirto Adi Suryo was publisher and editor of the first Native-owned daily paper, instigator of the first “legal aid service,” co-founder of the first modern political organization, co-publisher of the first magazine for women, and a pioneer of indigenous literature in the language of the nation yet to be born. All this and more is brought to life for the reader in an amazing adventure of intellectual discovery and emotion.
Minke’s personal adventure also continues on from
This Earth of Mankind
Child of All Nations.
The kaleidoscope of characters he meets, learns from, and struggles against is equal to the cast of any true-life epic. And, of course, many of these are also fully or partially inspired by real historical figures.
is a story of a beginning in two ways. It is not just a story set against the background of the creation of a nation but a story that puts the reader right inside that beginning.
It is also a second beginning for Minke, the boy who narrated the earlier novels. In those novels he told how he found out the hard way what it meant to be a Native in the apartheid of the Netherlands Indies, what “entering into the modern world” really meant, what real and cruel injustice was, and to what heights a Native could rise, if he or she refused to be cowed by the colonial world.
Minke leaves the East Javanese port town of Surabaya and arrives in Batavia, or Betawi, as the indigenous
people called it. Batavia was the capital of the Netherlands Indies. It was the intellectual and political center of the colony. (Today, as Jakarta, it retains that central place.) He has arrived to study at the only school of higher learning in the Indies for Natives, the medical school for Native doctors.
He has left behind the people who played such an important role in opening his youthful eyes to the world around him. Annelies, his wife, was a victim of colonial inhumanity. Nyai Ontosoroh, the concubine of a failed Dutch entrepreneur, who had inspired Minke with her strength of character and understanding of the modern, colonial world, was engaged in her own new beginning in Surabaya. Jean Marais, the Frenchman who had fought against the Natives for the Dutch but who then became their admirer, and who taught Minke not to ignore the life of the people around him, continued to paint and bring up his daughter, Maysoroh Marais. Khouw Ah Soe, the fighter for the progress of the Chinese people, had lost his life at the hands of the Chinese secret societies. Troenodongso and his fellow farmers would still be fighting for survival in the sugar fields and rice paddies of East Java. Magda Peters, his teacher, who had crossed the boundaries of what was permissible in colonial society, was back in Holland. Herbert de la Croix, the liberal Dutch administrator, had also returned home to Holland with his family, embittered by the cruelty of his own people.
Sometime their paths might cross again but now it is only the liberal Dutch journalist Ter Haar, and Miriam—Mir—the now-adult daughter of Herbert de la Croix, who return to play an important role in Minke’s life.
But Minke has brought many new things with him to Betawi. He has been through so much and had his eyes opened to so much in the course of just a few months in Surabaya. That an unusual life was in store was already signaled by the fact that he had been one of only two Native boys allowed to study in the elite Dutch-language grammar school, the HBS. There, through a school friend who later was to become his nemesis, he met the Eurasian girl, Annelies, and her mother, Nyai Ontosoroh, whose own story of being sold into bondage is a gripping novelette in itself.
Annelies’s mother, being a concubine of a Dutchman, had no legal rights over her daughter. It was the Dutch side of the family that had control over the still under-age Annelies. In
This Earth of Mankind
this situation, following the murder of the Dutchman
in a brothel, set in train a confrontation between Natives and Dutchmen, Islam and the “Christian” way, the individual and the law. Through this confrontation Minke learned about true liberal values, about colonialism, about the relationship between his Malay and non-Dutch-speaking fellow countrymen. He also learned to fight against injustice.
Child of All Nations
Minke’s horizons broadened even further. His adventures in
This Earth of Mankind
centered on his own entanglement in the colonial web. In
Child of All Nations
, he moved beyond the confines of the HBS school and from the gloomy mansion of Nyai Ontosoroh. He witnessed and was caught up in the rebellion of peasants against the sugar planters. He confronted the power of the planters and their control over the newspapers. He learned for the first time of the awakening in Asia’s north—of the Philippines Republic and of the activities of the Young Generation in Japan and China. Indeed, he met and later sheltered a roving Chinese youth who had smuggled himself into the Indies to bring the message of the awakening of Asia to the Chinese community of the Indies, dominated as it was by the terroristic Chinese secret societies. And he and Nyai had to face once more the cold face of colonial indifference, in the form of the greed of the family of Nyai’s former master.