In the course of a long and eventful life that came to a peaceful end on the morning of 30 April 2006 in Jakarta, Pramoedya Ananta Toer became Indonesia’s most famous writer, both in his own country and internationally. A colourful and controversial figure, Pramoedya was a writer, historian and politically-engaged intellectual who played a central role in modern Indonesian cultural and political affairs for a period of more than 50 years.
Pramoedya’s influence on the lives of younger generations of Indonesian artists and intellectuals began in the 1960s, as Putu Oka Sukanta recalls in his tribute to his great ‘teacher and friend’. At the beginning of a new century, ‘Bung Pram’ continued to inspire a new generation of thinkers, writers and activists, as Linda Christanty and Hilmar Farid record in their memories of encounters with Pramoedya towards the end of his life.
Meanwhile, Pramoedya’s works were also making a real impact on young Australians like Pam Allen and her fellow students at the ANU in the 1970s, as they took their first steps towards engaging with Indonesia and its culture through their study of the Indonesian language. In 2006 this tradition continues, with a new generation of Australian students, like Joanne McMillan at the University of New England, still finding new insights into Indonesian society and history through their study of Pramoedya’s essays, novels and short stories.
Through translation into English and other languages, Pramoedya’s fame has also spread beyond readers of his books in their original Indonesian. As Chris GoGwilt shows, these books now occupy a significant place in world literature, quite independent of the controversies that surrounded Pramoedya in his lifetime and continue to be part of to his legacy.
Pramoedya and his viewpoint on Indonesia have been a presence in Inside Indonesia since the magazine’s foundation in 1983. It is fitting that our final paper edition should be devoted to his memory.
Keith Foulcher (Keith.Foulcher@arts.usyd.edu.au ) is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.