The Voice of Pramoedya Ananta Toer: Passages, Interviews, and Reflections from The Mute's Soliloquy and Pramoedya
's North American Tour
GoGwilt, Christopher Lloyd.
Cultural Critique, 55, Fall 2003, pp. 217-246 (Article)
Published by University of Minnesota Press DOI: 10.1353/cul.2003.0048
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THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
PASSAGES, INTERVIEWS, AND REFLECTIONS FROM THE MUTE’S SOLILOQUY AND PRAMOEDYA’S NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
Following the events of 1965, I lost everything or, to be more accurate, all the illusions I had ever owned. I was a newborn child, outWtted with the only instrument a newly born babe Wnds necessary for life: a voice. Thus like a child my only means of communication was my voice: my screams, cries, whimpers, and yelps. What would happen to me if my voice, my sole means of communication, were to be taken from me? Is it possible to take from a man his right to speak to himself? —Pramoedya Ananta Toer, The Mute’s Soliloquy
ramoedya Ananta Toer has long been recognized as Indonesia’s most signiWcant literary voice. During the Wrst two decades of Indonesian independence from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, Pramoedya became established as the country’s leading prose writer, the celebrated voice of revolutionary nationalism in literature and culture. Things changed drastically following his arrest during the events of 1965, in which the persecution, arrest, and massacre of countless communists and communist “sympathizers” marked the fall of Sukarno’s power and the rise of the Soeharto regime. As a political prisoner, exiled to the remote Buru Island prison colony, his books banned, Pramoedya continued to write—composing the Buru quartet of historical novels on which his international reputation is largely based. Since his release from Buru in 1979 until the crumbling of Soeharto’s regime in the late 1990s, Pramoedya remained a writer ofWcially silenced at home, the internationally recognized voice of dissidence in “New Order” Indonesia.
Cultural Critique 55—Fall 2003—Copyright 2003 Regents of the University of Minnesota
In April 1999 Pramoedya left Indonesia, for the Wrst time since the early 1960s, to visit the United States. The catalyst for what became a tour of North America and Europe was the invitation to attend an international conference in New York hosted by Fordham University and organized by myself (then director of Fordham’s Literary Studies Program) and Will Schwalbe (executive editor at Hyperion Books and Pramoedya’s literary representative), along with John McGlynn (cofounder and director of the Lontar Foundation, and, as Willem Samuels, translator of Pramoedya’s The Fugitive and The Mute’s Soliloquy). The purpose of the conference was to engage public and scholarly debate on the signiWcance of the writer’s work both for Indonesia and for world literature. Titled “The Voice of Pramoedya Ananta Toer in Indonesia and in World Literature,” the conference was planned to coincide with the publication of The Mute’s Soliloquy, the English-language translation and edition of Pramoedya’s memoir. Chosen to signal the motif of voice in the memoir and to evoke the ongoing struggle against censorship in Indonesia, the conference title acquired another signiWcance when Pramoedya accepted the invitation to participate and—against almost all expectations—when passport and visa were secured for him to leave Indonesia for the Wrst time in forty years. In what follows, I reXect on the signiWcance of this metaphor of voice—both in Pramoedya’s own text and in its English translation into a North American context. That metaphor has a rather different resonance in the context of the authoritarian institutions of New Order Indonesia than it does in the context of the liberal democratic institutions of North America. Throughout Pramoedya’s North American tour, the distance between these two contexts seemed particularly marked in Pramoedya’s responses to interview questions (including those in this article), in which he would simultaneously be addressing both a North American and an Indonesian audience and readership. There are at least three different contexts through which Pramoedya’s voice from Buru gets refracted: the silenced space of imprisonment in Buru exile; the censored public sphere of New Order Indonesia; and the international circulation of information and ideas through the free press and the world publishing market. The resulting disjuncture of voice necessarily affects any reading of Pramoedya’s work. An English-language reader might consider, for
for many years.2 And so the question—”Is it possible to take from a man his right to speak to himself?”—retains the unanswered force of its Wrst formulation. than it had to an Indonesian readership within Indonesia. it articulates an unanswered complex of questions about the fundamental human right to free speech. If his “right to speak to himself” seems deWantly afWrmed by the very survival of this passage in a letter smuggled out of Buru.” As Pramoedya pointed out with sober pessimism in his comments at the end of the Fordham conference. Discussing the occasion of Pramoedya’s visit to America. and philosophical registers. of the right to write at all—was he not. there remains the thought: since Pramoedya was deprived of the right to communicate with his family—since he was deprived. “It’s unlikely that you’ll ever receive this letter. then in the Indonesian edition of 1995). I would like to offer some critical reXections on the signiWcance of this disjuncture of voice and. Yet in its cumulative political. on reading Pramoedya’s Indonesian voice in the English translation of The Mute’s Soliloquy. it challenges the very forces of oppression that threaten to deprive him of a voice. the losses of 1965 in Indonesia have yet to be reckoned with. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be able to send it”—Pramoedya contemplates the signiWcance of his voyage into exile on Buru. literary.1 Pramoedya’s reXection on the threatened loss of his own voice in the epigraph comes from the Wrst section of The Mute’s Soliloquy. in a letter to one of his children—which opens. The title of the English edition of Pramoedya’s prison notes. It sustains. nonetheless. the unsettling aftereffect of a question still unanswered. In its immediate rhetorical effect. The question he poses—“Is it possible to take from a man his right to speak to himself?”—has the deWant force of a rhetorical question answered in the very act of asking. after all. the fact that in 1999 Pramoedya’s Buru quartet had been more widely available to an English readership outside Indonesia. deprived of the “right to speak to himself”? Even when published (Wrst in the Dutch edition of 1989. the notes that survived from Buru were banned in Indonesia. that deWance is itself premised on the deprivation of voice on which the passage reXects: “Following the events of 1965. in particular. Here. and for many more years.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
example. Among the after-echoes of Pramoedya’s question. I lost everything. The
In political terms. papers. The notes that make up Pramoedya’s memoir (many of them composed. These notes testify against Indonesia’s attempt to silence one of its most powerful literary voices. Both for an Indonesian and a non-Indonesian reader. essays. they provide a compelling point of reference for “the events of 1965” (peristiwa 1965). and historical coordinates of what was lost in the most traumatic moment of contemporary Indonesian history. concisely names the paradox of loss and survival of voice on which the combined political and literary power of Pramoedya’s notes from Buru depend. and a long list of the missing and the dead—is a voice that survives in the recording of its own loss. reXections. The Mute’s Soliloquy provides the Englishlanguage reader a rare and important glimpse of that more extensive “soliloquy” of Pramoedya’s Buru years from which the full scope of his literary work is still emerging. and the drama Mangir (also published in 2000). to cite the example most accessible to the English-language reader. Child of All Nations. literary. What emerges from the rescued fragments—letters to his children.3 Such rescue work has yielded not only the Buru quartet of novels published (and banned) between 1979 and 1988—This Earth of Mankind. like the Buru quartet. and House of Glass—but also those other works from Buru that continue to emerge. in 2000). interviews with ofWcials and journalists Pramoedya recorded himself. reconstructs from memory the research and documentation that was almost entirely lost when Pramoedya’s manuscripts. the English edition supplements the long labor of rescue work on which the survival of Pramoedya’s literary and political voice has always depended. initially without pen and paper) are especially valuable because they record the personal. including the long historical novels Arus Balik (Wrst published in 1995) and Arok-Dedes (not published until after the North American tour. Footsteps. The Buru quartet. they compel attention to the unresolved national and international issues surrounding the crimes of
. Although the English translation constitutes only a fraction of the surviving notes (and the sections themselves are often abridged versions of the original). Including introductory comments to each section added by Pramoedya in 1998. All the work of Buru constitutes an extended attempt to come to terms with what the writer lost in 1965. and books were destroyed or scattered following his arrest.220
the generation of writers that came of age with the ideals of Indonesia merdeka (free or liberated Indonesia). This is. they call attention to the signiWcance of Pramoedya’s work as a whole as it was shaped up to. indeed. “I . . As the most prominent of the so-called Generation of ’45. All these divides are measured in the voice of the father attempting to write to his daughter: “you are the child of a free nation” (anak bangsa merdeka). but it also informs all the work of Pramoedya’s Buru exile.” must forever go back over in his memories the failed passage from colonial dependence to freedom and independence. Pramoedya’s voice is compelled. Pramoedya’s reXections on the changing meaning of freedom after 1965 constitute a scathing assessment of his own generation (a “failed” generation. 8). This projected dialogue marks as a generational. a bitter national testimony: “We’re supposed to leave tomorrow”—of his impending departure for Buru with eight hundred other prisoners. “child of a colonized people. and left unaddressed. also.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
the New Order regime.5 This is clearly the project of the Buru quartet of historical novels. In opening this painful and uneasy dialogue across the divides of different generations of Indonesian experience. and the support given that regime by liberal democracies such as the United States. 10. the child of a colonized people” (anak bangsa jajahan) (Mute. at the Fordham conference) and an unsettling challenge for later generations (for whom the wounds of 1965 were buried deep. to speak to the world at large. unmistakably. Nyanyi [I]. the recurring subject of all Pramoedya’s Buru work: the events of 1965 mark the historical failure of Indonesian anticolonial nationalism. challenging our understanding of the fate of freedom in the passage from a colonial to a postcolonial experience. he described it. in the same letter to his daughter that opens the memoir—”on August 17. Pramoedya’s “mute soliloquy” registers. by the ofWcial amnesia of New Order Indonesia). 4). In literary terms. Pramoedya’s project—above all.
.4 ReXecting on that failure. temporal divide what is then contemplated in the geographical movement into exile: the exiled father.” exiled from contact with that “free nation. with the Buru quartet—became the work of “writing to the roots” of Indonesian nationalism. and as it was shattered following 1965. Independence Day—a birthday present for the nation!” (Mute. across the generational divides of the twentieth century. .
the military involvement in East Timor). in his indictment of the military (above all. Once in the United States— now free to travel.6 In interviews and news articles published just before his departure. and as it compels a hearing both within Indonesia and abroad. very different from that of his journey to North America some thirty years later. of course. with the formal end to occupation in East Timor still in negotiation. and “Mute No More” (Salon): so read the titles of a sampling of news
There—in that ongoing Buru exile of “mute soliloquy”—we are bound to situate Pramoedya’s literary and political voice. from before and after 1965. in his call for Soeharto to be put on trial. Occurring at a moment of political crisis within Indonesia. In the mainstream North American press. past and present. with the escalating fomentation of religious conXict throughout Indonesia. give pause. the political signiWcance of Pramoedya’s visit was formulated as the success story of his struggle for freedom. Pramoedya’s visit to the United States was inevitably political. At the airport in Jakarta.7 The immediacy with which Pramoedya’s dissident voice translates into American English might. a huge banner wishing him farewell was unfolded by the left-wing Partai Rakyat Demokrasi. “A ‘Mute’ Talks Back” (Wall Street Journal). and now free to speak out and have his views reported in the press in Indonesia as well as abroad—Pramoedya was outspoken in his criticism of the Indonesian government. “In Indonesia. a Voice That Will Not Be Silenced” (International Herald Tribune). as broadcast in North America. With elections in Indonesia scheduled for June 1999. Soeharto’s New Order was imploding with no clear sense of what would take its place. and in his continuing support for the student reform movement. which—in interview after interview— combined an older revolutionary rhetoric of youthful liberation (the rhetoric of Indonesia merdeka) with the aspirations of a new generation’s struggle for freedom. however. in April 1999. Pramoedya’s planned trip was clearly seen as a testing of the government’s long-standing restrictions on his freedom of movement and freedom of speech. The historical moment of those inaugural ruminations on Pramoedya’s voyage into Buru exile is. remain bound by the political conditions shaping the narrative voice of The Mute’s Soliloquy? The timing of the visit to North America accentuated the double register of Pramoedya’s voice. But to what extent does Pramoedya’s dissident voice.
the humanist and realist. or Lonely) Song of Someone Who Is Mute. is “the prose writer par excellence. “pregnant with paradoxes” in its allusive engagement and dialogue with the history of Indonesian literature.” In Goenawan’s contrast between realist prose and lyrical poetry.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
articles and interviews. Amir Hamzah.” One thing that gets lost in this translation is the disjuncture of sense. 1937). As Goenawan Mohamad goes on to point out. Pramoedya.10 In this sense. Amir Hamzah’s collection of poems. by contrast to the religious poet Amir Hamzah. the “affective tonality” of the combined Wrst two words of the title are drawn from one of Indonesia’s foremost poets.11 it is possible to hear echoes of the bitter polemic of the 1960s between the socialist realism of Lekra (the cultural organization of the then-dominant Communist party) and the
.8 What gets lost in the translation of Pramoedya’s silenced voice into the dissident freedom to speak in the United States? Paradoxically. As the Indonesian poet. Implied in all these variations on the metaphor of voice (including the Fordham conference title) is the survival of Pramoedya’s dissident voice. in Goenawan Mohamad’s words. and journalist Goenawan Mohamad explained (introducing Pramoedya at the Asia Society in New York). Nyanyi Sunyi (Songs of solitude. Since a success story is often only the cue for Pramoedya to unravel untold other stories of struggle to come (this is the basic structure of the Buru novels). the evocation of a lyrical voice is all the more striking since. The Indonesian title—Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu—might literally be translated “The Quiet (or Silent. combined with the story of his freedom to travel and speak abroad in 1999.9 The English reader may not be in a position to understand how Pramoedya’s title is. the conceit of a solitary voice singing to itself in soliloquy—what gives both power and immediacy to the English title’s conception of the memoir as a whole—elides the book’s dialogic relation to Indonesian literary tradition. essayist. a problem of mediacy quite characteristic of Pramoedya’s style. one might well ask what a North American hearing of Pramoedya’s dissident voice has missed. provided a bridge between the old Malay poetic conventions of the past and the modern style of the poetry written in the new Indonesian language. the English title of The Mute’s Soliloquy gives an immediacy to Pramoedya’s voice and a coherence to the memoir not there in the Indonesian.
however. Reading Pramoedya in English translation exaggerates the effect of this linguistic exile. We are put in the position of listening in on the “soliloquy” of a writer cut off from family. to read a book deprived of its Indonesian readership. constitutes a revealing outside perspective from which to consider the bitter ironies of Pramoedya’s emergence as a world writer. to be cut off from language in this way is a threat to the very modality of his voice. one of the signatories of Manikebu. Goenawan’s comments constituted a moving gesture of recognition across political and generational divides: Goenawan Mohamad. too. Pramoedya’s visit to the United States in 1999 was the celebratory overseas visit of an internationally recognized literary voice. the “prose writer par excellence” of the Generation of ’45. poignancy. Yet The Mute’s Soliloquy tells of the passage into international recognition
. The contours of this debate—recalling similar debates elsewhere about the role of literature in politics during the Cold War—came to shape perceptions of Pramoedya’s literary and political voice. from his own language. sharing the stage to honor Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Whether or not Pramoedya’s title evokes such debates.12 Yet to read Pramoedya’s work in relation either to some continuity of lyrical voice or to some dialectical evolution within Indonesian literature would also misconstrue the literary coordinates of Pramoedya’s own Nyanyi Sunyi. since he was an outspoken opponent of Manikebu and a member of Lekra. from his readership. and thus. Given the centrality of the modernizing nationalist language of bahasa Indonesia for everything Pramoedya does as a writer. In this sense the English title aptly names the compromised position of a reading experience bound. Following 1965 these debates ended with the political silencing of Lekra. and continued relevance draws from the fact that it is composed in exile from Indonesian literature. the paradox of the writer’s journey into exile as a punitive rite of passage from the nationalist arena of Indonesian literature to the lonely stage of world literature. much of whose power. from a non-Indonesian perspective.224
apolitical aesthetic claims of Manikebu (a group of writers and artists whose “cultural manifesto”—after which the group was baptized— sought to separate culture from politics). and perhaps the most prominent poet of the Generation of ’66. The compromised position of an English reader.
Sutan Sjahrir. if the ship does not sink before we arrive.14 At the same
. Permenungan dan Pengapungan is a characteristically alliterative title. his nation’s birth. In a material sense. along with the nationalist leaders who had been sent there. it is often difWcult to pinpoint when or where the narrative voice is located. 13). and later statesman. the passages of earlier Indonesian nationalists. 15)
Pramoedya thus revisits and repeats. instead of being conWned in jail. my dream is about to come true—that is. celebrated or not: his daughter’s wedding. meaning something like “Contemplations and Floatings.” who was “shipped to his exile along the same route” (1996. The parallel echoes Pramoedya’s explicit evocation of nationalist heroes of the past later in this opening section:
How ironic it is that in 1948 when I was in Bukitduri prison I wished that I would be exiled to the Moluccas. Although Pramoedya is constantly struggling to record the conditions of his prison existence. years later. In his extended discussion of the Indonesian edition of the memoir. And now. as in this section. with a bitter and ironic difference. The original title of the section suggests a set of free-Xoating meditations unmoored from the coordinates of time and place. and. as captured by the Dutch translation Overpeinzingen op zee (ReXections at sea) (Lied 1989. the Wrst arrival of European colonizers to Indonesia. 51). (Mute. coordinate the present with memories of his past life. which represents only a fragment of what Pramoedya wrote. much of which was lost or destroyed.13 Sjahrir’s letters from exile were Wrst published in Dutch as Indonesische Overpeinzingen and later in Indonesian as Renungan Indonesia. Rudolf Mrázek points out that these titles recall the journey into exile of “another Indonesian intellectual.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
in a far less celebratory mood.” The second word suggests the Xoating of a ship at sea. The whole of the Wrst section dwells on the voyage to Buru (thirty years before the voyage to North America). and sets that voyage in ever more bitterly ironic contrast to other anniversaries. and future make it an appropriate introduction to the memoir as a whole. Pramoedya’s reXections in this section on the coordinates of the past. This constellation of anniversary remembrances (“Natant Ruminations” is the section’s English title) underscores the book’s disjuncture of narrative coordinates. this is a condition of all the written work that was smuggled out of Buru. present.
sermons. reXecting on the loss of their hard-won “freedom”.226
time. the passage is characteristic of a great deal of Pramoedya’s prose style (whether in the short stories of his early writing. the present. though muted in the English translation. and all the work of Buru. or. he recalls the origins of his own literary career in the experience of imprisonment under the Dutch in Bukitduri prison. one can Wnd at least three different voicings of the keyword “freedom”: that of the father (“child of a colonized people”) instructing the daughter (“child of a free nation”) on the values of freedom. that of a contemporary addressing those of his own generation. When. The difWculty lies in judging for whom that connection might be made meaningful: for his daughter. and advice from nameless authorities who wish for us good luck in the new life that we are headed for” (Mute. Both sets of experiences are revisited according to a changed sense of the coordinates of freedom and world history. indeed. for his fellow prisoners on Buru. does this reXecting take place? The passage occurs in the middle of those
.15 The disjuncture between all these possible voices comes to shape the whole section’s reXection on exile. emerges. but it is also presented as a fundamental aspect of that problem of medium captured in the memoir’s title and (however differently) in its English translation. in the Buru quartet of novels. 18). As philosophical reXection. after all. is there in “the loudspeaker” that “continues to belch saccharine kroncong songs. It is from this reformulation of his nation’s and his own past that the voice—or rather the disjuncture of voices—of The Mute’s Soliloquy. 7). in his conversational voice). and that of a famous writer contemplating his own loss of voice. too: the voice of ofWcial Indonesian mass media. It is difWcult to tell how much connection there may be between the ironic thought that his exile is a birthday present for the nation and the effort (revealed at the end of the section) to Wnd some Wtting “wedding present” for the daughter whose husband’s name he cannot even remember. which. Pramoedya turns to a philosophical register of questioning to consider a person’s boundedness by the coordinates of “three-dimensional time”: “If a person cannot free himself from three-dimensional time—from either the past. There is another voice. ofWcial announcements. Recollecting the moment of his own departure into exile. for himself alone? Between these three alternatives. or the future—how must this be viewed? As God’s gift or His curse?” (Mute.
a retrospective reconstruction of something already retrospective. present. New Order Indonesia. Thus the relation of one fragment to another poses a number of almost intractable questions about “three-dimensional time” and the narrative present of the prison notes. too. We know this must have been written down at a later date. This is in large part a result of the very loss on which the notes reXect.” When Pramoedya reXects on the “gift” or “curse” of being bound to such temporal coordinates. made up of passages (some of which are lost) written down. and put together later. that “Then I. It is from this disjuncture of political contexts—retrospectively demanding attention to the different spheres of Buru prison exile. When. The Mute’s Soliloquy is punctuated throughout with accounts of the constant struggle to maintain access to pen and paper. more likely. Each section is a fragment itself. the sentiment suitably articulates a problem of organization that informs the whole set of notes. The notes continually return to the problematic coordinates of their own “past. The stories and recollections
. and international public opinion—that much of the power of Pramoedya’s voice emerges.”16 In either event. perhaps. in this Wrst section. since Pramoedya was deprived of all forms of writing implements until 1973. there seems an unavoidable ambiguity of reference: the question “How must this be viewed?” might refer to the speciWc condition of his own exile or to the human condition of being caught within “three-dimensional time. and future. we move from the comment. addressed to his daughter. The intimacy of Pramoedya’s letters to his children is overladen with another kind of poignancy than the one evoked by the knowledge that these letters could not be sent (let alone written) once we learn that the prisoners on Buru would often read their letters to one another.” bringing together into the one reading experience (or into any one passage of text) a multiple series of “ruminations. as well as the dangers Pramoedya faced in writing and keeping what was written—thus the story of how the Buru quartet came to be written emerges Wrst as the record of a writing that is conWscated and lost. transcribed. an improvised retrospective narrative present and. went away—into exile” to the philosophical reXection “How must this be viewed?” how does the reader coordinate the temporal relation between the two passages? The narrative relation is.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
reXections that recount (in the present tense) the experience of the journey to Buru in 1969.
formally. or the police commissioner Pangemanann. are also “notes”—composed on Buru.
. coming-of-age. The fragmentary form of The Mute’s Soliloquy is intimately related to the formal structure of the Buru quartet of novels. historical development. an important difference between the Wctional form of the Buru quartet and the “personal notes” of The Mute’s Soliloquy. What connects them. the striking shift from Minke’s to Pangemanann’s narrative voice fundamentally unsettles the narrative pattern of development. the historical Tirto Adhi Suryo. with which Minke’s story (particularly in This Earth of Mankind) projects a relation between autobiography. discussing the early autobiographical stories (“Gado-Gado” above all).18 The Buru novels. Pramoedya himself. like the “personal notes” of The Mute’s Soliloquy. Although such shifts in narrative perspective easily— perhaps all too easily—Wt a (post)modern aesthetic of novel form. with no thought given to their Wnal shape or form” (ix). this narrative disjuncture is premised on the same problem of coordination that shapes the voice of The Mute’s Soliloquy. another Indonesian scholar and a Dutch translator of Pramoedya’s work. which Pramoedya describes in the foreword as “a stream of water Xowing unchecked. of course. is just this contingent “note” form. As most readings of the quartet note. Pramoedya’s work might all be characterized as. in a layering of experience that gives shape to the whole. And that whole is itself shaped around the loss of voice that precipitates recollection of events prior to Buru exile. the awakening of Indonesian national consciousness. on whom that Wctional narrator is (increasingly) based. As Henk Meier. and the awakening of a national consciousness.17 Informing the Wctional power of the quartet from the very outset. this indeterminacy of relation has something important in common with the problematic narrative present of the autobiographical “I” of the prison notes. who withholds his identity. nothing but notes (catatan-catatan).228
told within each section come already told and retold. or Bildung. House of Glass. As Indonesian and Javanese scholar Nancy Florida discussed at the Fordham conference. There is. however. argued at the Fordham conference. the opening to This Earth of Mankind organizes the quartet around the shifting coordinates of a number of possible Wrst-person narrative perspectives: the oddly named Wrst-person narrator Minke. who narrates the Wnal volume.
as Florida extensively discusses in her extraordinary study. more suspicious narrator (“One day the notes would be of use to me. The claim stands in odd contrast to Pramoedya’s outspoken rejection of Javanese mysticism and. indeed. written down and smuggled in parts out of Buru and later edited into their Wnal form. This argument suggests an approach to Pramoedya’s work that would likely go against the usual grain of an English reader. an English reader has yet to learn how to make such contingencies a material part of the reading process. signaling in what sense the quartet stages the colonial contest as a struggle over archival memory. supplementation. though. we might consider Florida’s argument that Pramoedya follows. the bundles of notes are appropriated by the police commissioner Pangemanann. and delays. as they are now” [This Earth. As we have already seen with the title of The Mute’s Soliloquy.
. in his own prison exile. in his own manner. elision.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
spoken orally to his fellow prisoners. Minke. Inscribing the Future: History as Prophecy in Colonial Java (1995). and destruction of historical documents. By then the historical basis of Pramoedya’s novels has become clear enough for any reader to recognize that this is no mere metaphorical struggle over the manipulation. Perhaps. the immediacy of Pramoedya’s voice in English is necessarily an effect of mediation through translation. Those notes early on establish the disjuncture between the enthusiastic voice of the youthful Minke enamored by European education and modernity (“I. on the Wction of a set of “notes” written by the narrator. a Javanese. liked to make notes—because of my European training”).19 Florida’s argument. and the voice of a more knowledgeable. In the Wnal volume. however. distortion. is that Pramoedya is following here a radically different form of Javanese tradition from the one Minke and Pramoedya rail against as “Javanism”—a tradition of using historical chronicle to imagine a revolutionary future. the “Javanism” of high Javanese cultural forms—against which Pramoedya uses bahasa Indonesia (as discussed at length by Benedict Anderson). Writing the Past. more generally. accretions. 17]). a tradition of Javanese prophetic historical chroniclers. ascribing them to accidental effects of editing and translation. trained to screen out a text’s temporal anachronisms. Their narrative form is based. To attend to the historical implications of this contingency of narrative form.
Here is a potential moment of conjuncture between the three discrepant contexts of Pramoedya’s Buru exile (Buru itself. . In the Wnal section of The Mute’s Soliloquy. an English translation of some of his own stories. and exile in The Mute’s Soliloquy. yes. One striking difWculty in translating Pramoedya’s Indonesian into English is the loss of English words and phrases from the original Indonesian.230
and interpretation. Whatever the rhetorical force of the question Pramoedya records himself as saying in response. pram: O. . communication. nation. written. I’ll be able to. Another kind of English-language effect from this same Wnal section. but one that is translated—if not fully translatable—in the English edition. and the international media and languages of communication beyond Indonesia). Pramoedya expresses puzzlement at the reporter’s use of the word “cunin”: reporter: When you are freed. there are a number of passages left out of the English translation. will you be able to cunin with others? pram: What do you mean by cunin? What language is that? reporter: English. the amusement of the exchange stands in contrast to the overall context of this Wnal section. why shouldn’t I?20 An amusing variation on the problem of voice. “The First Release. tune-in. Bung.” Knowing his name is among the Wrst set of prisoners to be freed. as the creations of someone else—a person of a different culture. Asked whether he might have lost touch with his own people after so long in exile. Pramoedya Wnds himself “attempt[ing] to read the stories . is Pramoedya’s description of reading his own work in English translation. including one short exchange from among Pramoedya’s interviews with journalists who visited Buru to report on the Wrst release of prisoners. and translingual medium of Pramoedya’s use of bahasa Indonesia. Having earlier received a copy of Harry Aveling’s Heap of Ashes. Pramoedya has yet to learn that he will remain in Buru exile for another two years. and language—but found myself unable and could not stop the
. New Order Indonesia from which he has been exiled. the passage poses a sort of exemplary riddle about the oral.
it ought to come as a surprise that this loss of voice. Pramoedya revisits the work of his youth reframed within a changed set of personal. and transnational coordinates. he reads his own past life in the English translation of his early short story “The Silent Center of Life’s Day. 342).” For an English reader. and the coordinates of its various translation effects. would anyone hear this mute’s soliloquy?” (Mute. national. In Pramoedya’s opening reXections on being deported to Buru. It is in this Wnal section. as if looking in a mirror.21 Pramoedya measures. and the governing conceit of the “mute’s soliloquy. .”—a symbolic promise for every person’s future. the Wrst line of which went “There’s a happy land somewhere . Faced with the uncanny reXection of his own words in English translation. “I have lost my voice.22 The estrangement of such English-language effects are written into the form of the Buru notes themselves.” and “future” of “three-dimensional time”:
.” should emerge from Pramoedya’s encounter with his own words in English translation. the Wrst extended motif of singing is prompted by the English words of a song:
During the Revolution when I was being held by the Dutch in Bukitduri Prison.
These English words (set in italics in my citation to accentuate the English-effect that necessarily gets muted in the English translation) become the text by which Pramoedya explicates the “past. all the more isolated in his Buru exile following the “Wrst release” of prisoners. that the memoir improvises the English title-metaphor of “the mute’s soliloquy” to describe that condition of loss Pramoedya feels when. with irony and an almost unfathomable combination of bitterness and sentimentality. I memorized a Negro spiritual.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
tears from welling in my eyes” (Mute. The passage suggests that the space of English translation. the winning of international recognition as a consequence of the loss of his own literary voice. 341). constitutes the exemplary condition of exile. .” “present. Were I able to sing. In what seems a displaced response to the question posed in the Wrst section of the memoir—“Is it possible to take from a man his right to speak to himself?”—we read. and cultural loss that makes for world literary recognition in the twentieth century. isolation.
of course. political. wish away the problems of translation on which any such complex set of cultural identiWcations depends. as emerges in a succession of analogies to other histories of traumatic displacement. 7)
The spiritual. stripped of their rights as Indonesian citizens and deported across the seas.23 They also set the coordinates of Pramoedya’s “notes” according to a set of disjunctive identiWcations of exile and diaspora. 9). An English reading of Pramoedya cannot. the present as his starting point. to the kidnapping of Chinese to Hawaii. If the words of the English “Negro spiritual” stand in linguistic and cultural counterpoint to the “saccharine kroncong songs” of the boat’s loudspeaker24 and the allusion to Amir Hamzah in the title phrase Nyanyi Sunyi. sweat as the symbol of his labor. in the Indonesian and Dutch editions. a person goes forward. But because one can never be sure of reaching that place. Pramoedya compares their collective plight to the Chinese forcibly taken by Captain Bontekoe in the early seventeenth century on his voyages in the East Indies.” (Mute. To the extent that Pramoedya’s “English” voice invites such a contrapuntal crossing of cultural matrices. as described by James Michener’s Hawaii. the second line of the song goes “And it’s just a prayer away. and cultural signiWcance of these English words (which recur throughout the opening section) thus set the coordinates for Pramoedya’s reXections on “three-dimensional time” and on his own passage into Buru exile. and the past as his provisions. I should like to end by calling attention to an alternative translation of the passage from The Mute’s Soliloquy with which I began: “Is it possible to take from a man his right to speak to himself?” That question.232
With hope as his guide. toward a happy land somewhere. Describing the process of dispossession he and his fellow prisoners undergo. it reveals the contingency of linguistic reference and cultural identiWcation that remains at the heart of Pramoedya’s work in general and its political project of “writing to the roots” of Indonesian nationalism. and to “the four million Africans loaded onto British and American ships for transport across the Atlantic” (Mute. we might read these traumatic histories of dispossession as the complementary counterpoint to Indonesian nationalism. has a rather different accentuation when followed by a sentence omitted in
to be able to leave Indonesia on such a trip at the present time? pramoedya ananta toer: I consider this opportunity to leave Indonesia and travel abroad.27 That translation offers an indispensable insight into the “mute soliloquy” of Pramoedya’s Buru years. an English reader should also attend to the gaps and inconsistencies that continue to threaten the modality of Pramoedya’s voice. (In italics. unseaworthy translation (with an accordingly altered translation of the opening question):
Then. D.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
the English translation.
INTERVIEW WITH PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER. a personal victory against decades of oppression and against the arrogance of the formal authorities in Indonesia. if that means of communication is conWscated. the sentence omitted from The Mute’s Soliloquy)25
The passages cut from the English translation pose more questions than could likely be answered even by judicious translation. personally. footnote. NEW YORK/WASHINGTON. bringing coherence to the loss of voice against which Pramoedya’s work testiWes. the responses were sent by fax from Benedict Anderson’s house in Ithaca on April 17.28 chris gogwilt: What does it mean for you. och. too perfect in making the metaphor of “voice” coherent. 1999) and Pramoedya’s typewritten answers to those questions. 1999.C. and to come here to the United States. Here is my own. Washington. 1999..26 I attempt a translation here only to emphasize the problematic consistency of that English voice that emerges so immediately and powerfully in Willem Samuels’s translation. who can conWscate the right to commune in dialogue with oneself? And that which is conWscated will be changed into another kind of energy that will etch eternity into life. and commentary. indeed. Dated April 10. Because the English translation is. And all this is a direct consequence of the reform movement of the Young Generation of Indonesian Students as well as the understanding from
. APRIL 1999
What follows are the set of questions I gave to Pramoedya on the day of his arrival in the United States (April 6.
D. in Soekabumi in 1963. has provided the occasion for the U. What I’ve done is nothing more than to try to understand present-day Indonesia. because I didn’t understand them.31 When did you begin this work. is intended as a reminder and warning to society that what has happened in the past may happen again now and in the future—each time. another badge of honor. etc. was signiWcant about the republication of Hoakiau di Indonesia [The overseas Chinese of Indonesia] in 1998? pat: The publication of Hoakiau. on your breast. cg: In the past you have said that each book banned is another star. in Solo in 1912. in Jakarta in 1998–99. It is. these efforts date back to the time of
. Hyperion. in Kudus in 1916. In fact. Ford Foundation.30 cg: The considerable amount of historical research you have conducted includes editing and reissuing works of “pre-Indonesian” literature. a sign of decades-long struggles that have not been without sacriWces.S.29 What does it mean to you now that your books are becoming increasingly available within Indonesia? pat: It is true that now many of my books are able to circulate throughout Indonesia. The ofWcial ban on my work has not yet been withdrawn.234
various groups and institutions in the United States: Fordham University. Naturally for all this I express many thanks. The Mute’s Soliloquy. and this is in line with the failure to release several prominent P. Wgures of the Young Generation who were abducted and thrown in prison. There were a number of events about which I was most concerned and.R. cg: What. tour? pat: The publication of The Mute’s Soliloquy is one of a number of opportunities to visit the United States. and most importantly when occurring together at the same time. on the contrary. cg: Is there any special signiWcance for you in the fact that the publication of your memoir. I tried to turn to history for answers. now already in its third edition. whether horizontally or vertically. in your view. but this is by no means a sign of magnanimity on the part of the Indonesian authorities. as happened in Batavia and the surrounding area in 1740. and why? pat: I feel I haven’t yet fully enough studied history.
that Indonesia was so little known in the rest of the world. The rest had not yet been smuggled out at the time of my release from Buru. you mention a number of works produced on Buru that have not yet been published: Arok and Dedes. What remains behind is the muck of KKN (corruption. sent the following questions. It stages the story of the establishment of the kingdom of Mataram. of Baperki. “How do you account for the fact that Indonesian writers do not generally reach an audience of people already interested in Indonesia? More generally. who ascended to supreme power through killing and sentencing to death those he had himself ordered to carry out the killing.
. Mangir. Mangir is a drama. Mata Pusaran is about the fall of the kingdom of Majapahit. and with the assistance of students in the school of literature. and it was conWscated. collusion. and how it became autonomous with the fall of the Majapahit.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
the Old Order (OrLa) and are connected to the cultural preoccupations of that time with national identity and nation-building (“identitas nasion dan nation-building”). the elite who are in power. Only the Wrst part of the manuscript was saved. James Siegel. My interest in studying history began to stir after I taught at the University of Res Publika. The concept of what was called Indonesian (wawasan keindonesiaan) has lost its appeal. Indonesia is now known in the world through its very bad and shameful products.32 cg: In The Mute’s Soliloquy. Perhaps this sounds bombastic. cg: While I was organizing the conference at Fordham University. First. I invited people to send questions and comments. how it shamelessly forced the village republics into submission by means of intrigues. who was unable to come to the conference. why is it that Indonesia has until recently been so little known in the world?” pat: Yes. but it’s true. because the farther the people leave the Old Order (OrLa) the less the people care about nation-building and national identity. and nepotism). it could not be otherwise.33 What signiWcance do you attach to these unpublished works? pat: Arok and Dedes is in fact a political mirror from which one can draw parallels between the ascent of Ken Arok in the thirteenth century and Soeharto in the twentieth century. as well as Mata Pusaran (The Whirlpool).
and ethnic groups live together. races. culture. in front of the White House was mounted an antinuclear statement and a
. and society in any way? pat: First impressions of my visit to the United States: 1. Javanese was just the right instrument to carry out oppression. recalling how backward Indonesia has become. 3. how peacefully all the various populations of different nations.236
cg: Second. Wlms. because Javanese was the language of my mother. for half a century. D. Although it is just an instrument. it depends entirely on the user. To observe.C. I have observed that every rule is directed to facilitate the people to make proper arrangements from passport control and immigration to baggage claim. 2. TrafWc is orderly and the streets are clean. I have considered America to be the instigator of sadism through the production of stories.36 Yet it turns out life goes on here in peace and safety. someone by the name of Soekarno succeeded in uniting the nations of Nusantara. from James Siegel: “I remember thirty years ago Ben Anderson telling me that he could hear Javanese under your Indonesian. On my last day in Washington. And yet on August 17. Language is an instrument. My highly emotional state was not entirely groundless when I recall how. unlike what is happening suddenly and without balance in underdeveloped countries. and cartoons..35 I think this situation is nothing other than the result of technological and step-by-step social development. To be more precise. Since landing at Newark. using Javanese corners people into knowing precisely where they stand in the social hierarchy. Could you comment on this observation? Is there something attractive but dangerous about the Javanese language?” pat: What Ben Anderson said thirty years ago—that he “can hear Javanese in Pram’s bahasa Indonesia”—can easily be understood. on my journey all the way from New York to Washington. Political expressions can be displayed freely and without any trouble. The wealth of Javanese with its many detailed nuances I still cannot transform in full into bahasa Indonesia. 1945. moved me so much. then also in 1950. I wept.34 cg: What are your Wrst impressions on visiting the United States? Has the visit changed your views of American history. 4.
in the late 1940s.
POSTSCRIPT: ON PRAMOEDYA’S TYPEWRITER
With only a week until Pramoedya was due to arrive at Newark airport. or rather one arrangement of various instruments: keys. Pramoedya himself often turns to the typewriter as an emblem of the writer’s struggles in a number of his earlier autobiographical stories such as “The Silent Center of Life’s Day. to be sure.” When Pramoedya arrived at Newark airport on April 6. Maemunah Thamrin. roller. and so on—it is the instrument that seems to Wgure (sometimes by analogy to musical instrument of the gamelan) the ideal sound of the ideal Pram sentence. some years before the North American tour. the typewriter. was smuggled out of Bukitduri prison). nobody has such a thing anymore. the writer’s voice. he was carrying his own portable. hammers. In Indonesia something like that would give the authorities the opportunity to unleash the security forces into the streets and also in commercial and public places.37 This may be why. Joesoef Isak. together with his wife. among others. The Fugitive. I certainly thought this was going too far. relation to the material means of communication. Pramoedya has always had to struggle to overcome the material obstacles to writing (long before Buru. it is perhaps worth noting this discrepancy between the electronic means of communication used for organizing the overseas tour and Pramoedya’s favored writing medium. a message appeared amid the mass of e-mail messages to and from all the various organizers of Pramoedya’s North American tour: “Pram would like to make sure that he has available for his use a manual typewriter with no fancy buttons attached. complex. Given the typewritten form of Pramoedya’s answers. 1999. The typewriter is a Wtting emblem of Pramoedya’s own stature as a writer because it recalls the writer’s modern. the plan had to be revised: “Ignore my previous request for supplying Pram with a manual typewriter during his stay in your city. but also often fragile and endangered.” As an essential instrument of the writer’s craft—one instrument.” By the end of the week. letter-blocks. and his editor.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
picture of the White House with the heading: Madhouse. the
. his Wrst novel. manual typewriter.
surfacing in a letter that describes the breakup of his Wrst marriage and his coming to terms with an “inferiority complex” with respect to Dutch literature and culture (195). I’m attached to this same old-fashioned writing instrument. situates the wider coordinates of a writing life. too” (Mute. conditioned by the very terms of deprivation on Buru. a barometer for the quality of my work but rather an indicator of international curiosity toward the new country of Indonesia”) and discusses the value of his writing in terms of his dependence on the “tool of his trade”: “I had purchased my portable six months earlier for the equivalent of my fee for three short articles. on his visit to Holland: “I had a happy home life. With my adorable little Baby Olivetti I could work as if I didn’t know the meaning of fatigue. Now not even thirty articles would fetch me the same machine. perhaps. in each case the privacy of the ruminations. Tracing the rise in his international reputation as a writer. in relation to the multiple journeys and passages evoked on the sea voyage into exile on Buru. and international relations that predicates his personal sense of “inferiority complex” on a set of colonial and postcolonial relations of world literary recognition. Pramoedya recalls his own suspicion of that international reputation (“The publication of my works abroad was not. The idealized image conceals a far from happy situation. or whether
.” The typewriter binds the writer to an economy of personal. discussing his meeting with Günter Grass in an interview for the German Frankfurter Rundschau.” The aura of the typewriter is also something Pramoedya reXects on in a number of passages from The Mute’s Soliloquy—most memorably.238
image of a silent typewriter reappeared in different accounts of Pramoedya’s writer’s block. but my typewriter was a siren whose call I couldn’t ignore. national. your mother would remind me to go to bed. as I saw it. Time and again. The typewriter embodies that disjuncture of media through which Pramoedya characteristically explores the coordinates of his own voice: whether reXecting its loss. 207). At the very end of his extended overseas tour. I could listen to a Wne selection of European music. Pramoedya spoke of reading Grass’s poem “Meine alte Olivetti” (“My old Olivetti”): “That is a kind of passion I share with him. And I had the children to play with. late at night. in an idealized image of “happy home life” abroad. Although both are personal matters.
Resink. But typewriters are no longer made. the typewriter evokes. and the late Wim Wertheim. D.C. passages. journeys (jalanjalan): “trafWc. one has done away with such a thing and replaced it with the computer? In the United States I even saw a typewriter factory that had closed down. In neither of those cases. now.” as it’s put. In a letter congratulating Günter Grass on being awarded the Nobel Prize. on the geographical and historical coordinates of racism and sadism that deWne the knotted interrelation between those rather different efforts (Indonesian and American) to unify states into a nation. rather. in the typewritten responses from Washington. outmoded image of the typewriter.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
reXecting. He stood. Go Gien Tjwan. What makes the typewriter exemplary is that it draws attention to the unifying contradictions in those various means of communication: the efWcient. I also owe belated thanks to a number of people who. which might also become blocked. he had some years before stockpiled his typewriter ribbons. have helped me hear the voice of Pramoedya’s Indonesian. in Washington. Because of his health. none of whom can be blamed for
.. Grass write? He led me to a corner.38
Pramoedya here coordinates his own relation to the world’s acknowledgment of literary “greatness” by the dated. in the Western world. J. Grass used no chair when typing. including Ben Anderson. a typewriter? When. he said. in the past. Foregrounding the writer’s engagement with the instruments and media of his writing. Pramoedya’s sense of the anachronism of the writer’s world recognition. So: a high-legged table without a chair. a more general imagery of means of communication. What. There is. and “orderly” paths (the modern form of print culture). of course. does Mr. simply. I thank Go Tie Siem. On a board was posted the words: relocated to Latin America.
For help with Indonesian translations for this article. a description in which we Wnd embedded a miniature inner account of Pramoedya’s encounter with North America:
Where. too. How does one get hold of typewriter ribbons? As it turned out. There on a high-legged table stood a typewriter. the late G. Pramoedya describes his encounter with the typewriter. clear. In fact Mr. an image itself of the indispensable anachronism of world literature in the twentieth century. is the typewriter explicitly mentioned.
rz-berlin . where he credits his freedom to travel and speak to the struggles of the students and gives absolutely no credit to the Indonesian authorities.. Pramoedya’s books. See “My Apologies.” on Alex Bardsley’s Web page. are being threatened by a newly formed “Anti-Communist Alliance” of Soeharto supporters. Pramoedya turned his attention increasingly toward the task of addressing “international
. and members of the notorious pro-Jakarta Timorese militias. Amnesty International. moreover. 6. 3. three years following the collapse of Soeharto’s regime. the East Timor Action Network. 4.html. May 18.mpg. Pramoedya had recently signed up as a member of the party—registering his dissent from any of the more mainstream parties vying for power. and other updated information. 2. and those that publish and distribute them. still banned from the upcoming elections and with many of its leaders still languishing in jail (see Pramoedya’s answer to the second interview question). 37). and who edited and arranged the two-volume edition of the memoir published in Dutch in 1988 and in Indonesian in 1995. As he puts it elsewhere in the Buru notes (in an essay on wayang. and Dutch responses.net/~agbardsley/prampage. The details of this labor were described at the Fordham conference by Pramoedya’s Indonesian editor. 4.g. I thank Benjamin Zimmer for this. “Pramoedya Ananta Toer Visits America and Europe.240
any mistakes I make here. not written in the form of a letter. During the course of his North American and European tour. Finally. The most persecuted of the opposition parties. For German. to the open door of postcolonialism [ke pintu terbuka pasca-kolonial]: how many times must we be baptized in blood?” (Nyanyi [I]. who played a central role in editing and publishing the Buru quartet. “The Shaping of the Mute’s Soliloquy. French. Characteristic of Pramoedya’s stance is his response to the Wrst of the questions posed in the interview. Muslim followers. 1.” at http://w3. 2001. For a range of responses to the North American and European tour.html. it is worth pointing out that. and not translated in the English edition): “For sure we are already an old country caught in the vicious circle of our dance: from the open door of colonialism [dari pintu terbuka kolonial]. Now again. Since the responses later in this interview suggest a certain reluctance to criticize the United States’ government. see Waruno Mahdi’s Web site. in the Name of Experience” (which appeared in the original Indonesian in 1992). 7. See Reuters report and article by Richard Lloyd Parry in The Independent of London. at http://home. in Indonesian and English.earthlink. Joesoef Isak. support for the Indonesian military (e. the Indonesian Emergency Project-IFCO).de/~wm/wm6pram. wherever Pramoedya went in North America. see Alex Bardsley’s Web site devoted to Pramoedya Ananta Toer.S. 5. he spoke to and with most of the main political groups working for the democracy and reform movements in Indonesia and opposing U. I would like to thank all those involved in the events of Pramoedya’s 1999 overseas tour. April–June 1999. See Joesoef Isak.
Pramoedya’s Wctional grasp of this historical process acutely grasps one crucial dimension of this problem of voice I have not here been able to explore: the question of gender. Goenawan Mohamad. the main protagonist of the Buru tetralogy and narrator of the Wrst three volumes. and peaceful demonstrators being beaten up by security ofWcers. And the tools being used to carry out these killings still originate from the North. can be found on Alex Bardsley’s comprehensive Web site devoted to Pramoedya. 11.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
public opinion” to the human rights violations. especially 1: 103. In an editorial for the newsweekly Tempo (2000). The exchange was the basis for Seth Mydans’s New York
. and died in obscurity and poverty. Chairil. 12. See Teeuw (1994). “A Kind of Silence. Goenawan and Pramoedya engaged in public debate over the still-unresolved question of reconciliation in post–New Order Indonesia. 8. Pramoedya argued: “The killings that started with Soeharto’s Orde Baru [New Order] are being continued by the OrBaba (the new Orde Baru). Practically all the countries in the North are involved in weapon deliveries for the mass killings and human rights violations. If Pramoedya himself rescues from oblivion the history and work of Tirto Adi Suryo (on whom Minke is modeled). “Let that damn poet. The solution still seems far off” (“Pramoedya Warmly Welcomed Everywhere”). and to come—we were then only just learning of the atrocities being carried out in East Timor as the military was setting in place paramilitary organizations in preparation for their formal departure. but also in terms of the difWculties facing Tirto Adi Suryo as a journalist attempting to give a voice to the dispossessed. Pramoedya rejected the premise of Goenawan’s comparison between Indonesia and South Africa. For a partial discussion of this question. given at the Asia Society on Thursday. 1: 84–103). As a pioneer journalist in the inaugural period of anticolonial nationalism. he does so not to celebrate that journalist’s success. but to explore the historical and political failure of that historical character’s struggle—not only in terms of the silencing of Tirto Adi Suryo. arguing that apologies could constitute only the sham appearance of reconciliation (“Saya Bukan Nelson Mandela”). and discussing the need to put Soeharto on trial. 10. who was viliWed. Minke. 9. seeks to give voice to the spectrum of political positions contending with Dutch colonial rule. in Holland. and (2) he comments on the importance of bahasa Indonesia. referring to the famous poet Chairil Anwar. see my “Pramoedya’s Fiction and History” (1996). “it is a matter of doing away with Xowery words” (see my “Pramoedya’s Fiction and History” [1996. Goenawan called on Pramoedya to accept President Abdurrahman Wahid’s apology for what Pramoedya suffered under the New Order regime.” the writer-narrator. exiled. writes. see Teeuw (1994. 1999. 166).’ I’ve divided myself three times” (A Heap of Ashes. present. For Amir Hamzah’s signiWcance for Indonesian literature. They have been accomplices in the killings. In response. April 22. On his way home.” The text of this address. 157]). ‘refuse to share himself. past. A year later. Two examples of this opposition between prose and poetry in Pramoedya’s own work: (1) in the short story “The Silent Centre of Life’s Day.
9). The text of the Indonesian accentuates this ambiguity. For a more detailed study of the early period of Indonesian nationalism. as well as a new relation between Indonesian and international public opinion (an engagement actively promoted by Goenawan in his work as editor for Tempo). While this exchange suggests an ongoing difference of political position between the two writers. or the future—how must this be viewed? As God’s gift or His curse?” (Mute.
. 13. see Ricklefs 1993. including the journalist and “pioneer” nationalist Tirto Adi Suryo. 14. the very fact that the debate could take place at all signals the reentry of Pramoedya as literary-political voice into the mainstream of Indonesian public debate. 18. see. a culture of masturbation. For a survey of this period of Indonesian history. the present. Recognition. and of puppet shadow theater” (1996). besides Max Lane’s introduction to his English translation of This Earth of Mankind. who is the historical Wgure on whom the main protagonist of the Buru tetralogy. 15. Mrázek’s essay. Hatta. As the Revolution erupted and as it passed. although more concerned with Pramoedya’s nonWctional historical work. Engineers of Happy Land (2002). thus: “If a person cannot free himself from three-dimensional time—from either the past. for whom this voice is crucial for his extended reading of the memoir. the sentence begins with the question “How must this be viewed?”—a phrase that the English translation places after the thought of three-dimensional time. James Siegel’s brilliant Fetish. translates one missing passage from The Mute’s Soliloquy as follows: “And the squealing kroncong songs force themselves upon our thoughts. it still contained a vitality—the vitality of a nation that was not yet free. Minke. Sukarno. “Spectral Nationality” (1998). 1946– 1949” (1993). Kroncong still had a power before independence. Henk Maier’s discussion also drew on Keith Foulcher’s discussion of “Gado-Gado” in his essay “The Early Fiction of Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Mrázek. can nonetheless be consulted for an understanding of the signiWcance of the shift from Minke’s to Pangemanann’s narrative voice. kroncong remained just a kind of narcissism. and by no means a reading of the Buru novels. but Pramoedya is also likely referring to earlier nationalists from the decade before. has been slightly revised and now forms the epilogue to his compelling study of technology and nationalism in the Dutch East Indies. 17. The recognition of this political transformation to come no doubt contributed to the moving scene of Goenawan’s introductory remarks for Pramoedya at the Asia Society. dissertation. 16. and Sjahrir were all exiled to the Moluccas in the 1930s. Revolution (1997). Equal to the culture of great speeches. see Shiraishi 1990. which originally appeared in 1996.D. a bouquet of empty words. is modeled. Benedict Anderson’s The Spectre of Comparisons (1998) and Pheng Cheah’s Ph. In the paragraph immediately following the Wrst sounding out of the word “exile” (and without the space introduced in the English translation). For important readings of the Buru novels.242
Times article (2000).
Pramoedya’s account of reading “The Still Center of Life’s Day” in English translation is all the more bitter in light of the original story’s own ironic reXection on the hegemony of English over world literary recognition. and concluding with an explicit comment explaining to his daughter the use of an idiomatic Jakarta expression. The concluding formulation—”Qo’it! Kata anak Betawi” (Nyanyi [I]. as I suspect it does. 24. It would no doubt take an expert in Indonesian. 6). See also Pramoedya’s comments in response to James Siegel’s question in the interview in this article. 25. He would hear nothing of an advance the next year.” There is no space here to explore even a fraction of these questions. 11)—introduces a revealing third term (child of Betawi/Jakarta) to add to the contrast between a child of a free nation (anak bangsa merdeka) and a child of a colonized nation (anak bangsa jajahan) discussed earlier. 20.THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
19. The rationale for putting together a single-volume edition of the memoir-notes is explained by the translator and editor. It might be worth pointing out that. 21. 87. He points out that The Mute’s
. is the fact that the published Indonesian and English editions do not seem to have any such corresponding formulation as “mute’s soliloquy. Willem Samuels. in the Indonesian edition. 180. leaves out Pramoedya’s reXections on the nature of translation itself. however. For the original Indonesian. The original Indonesian reads: “Dan bila modal komunikasi itu dirampas. Perhaps he never would. ah-ya. 22. rearranging the form of the published Dutch and Indonesian editions. demanding a footnote on Jakarta street slang. The title of Mrázek’s book. echoes this passage from Pramoedya’s Buru notes. the section’s meditation on the meaning of “freedom” (page 18 of the English edition) is embedded within a longer passage on kroncong omitted in the English edition (but partially translated by Mrázek). Most signiWcant. See Benedict Anderson’s “Sembah-Sumpah: The Politics of Language and Javanese Culture. 23. 177). and Jakarta slang to conWrm whether or not this passage performs. see Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu [I]. The entire passage presents a number of problems of translation. The writer sipped his cold tea” (A Heap of Ashes. Javanese. including the fact that the English translation. Engineers of Happy Land (2002).” in Language and Power (1990). That story’s reXection on the writer’s struggle to come to terms with the value of his own literary work concludes with the writer’s sending a manuscript off to America: “The editor would leave for America. a deconstruction of the voice of Pramoedya Ananta Toer. siapa yang bisa rampas hak untuk berdialog dengan diri sendiri? Dan yang dirampas itu akan berubah jadi energi lain yang akan mengguris abadi dalam kehidupan” (Nyanyi Sunyi [I]. 372–75). 194–237. This longer passage (which seems also to have entailed a rearrangement of sections for the English translation) includes a section that seems to take apart the linguistic coherence of its Indonesian. See also Mrázek 1996. in his concluding note on the translation (Mute. 26.
Since I have modiWed that translation slightly. 163 n29. to moan. to whine. 33. I would like to thank Go Tie Siem for providing a translation of my questions to Pramoedya and for translating Pramoedya’s responses in turn. who may seize and take away my right to have a dialogue with myself?” (Mrázek 1996. any errors in translation are my own. as a teacher. the result of an orchestrated pro-Soeharto military campaign. and had missed an important meeting with PEN representatives. His translation of this entire passage (which unfortunately also leaves out the sentence I attempt to translate) reads: “And like a baby. His response: “the trafWc is terrible. See my 1995 interview with Pramoedya. 28. “Pramoedya’s Fiction and History” (1996. 27. from Chinese newspapers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 1982). 32. unedited typescript (the full translation of which is to be deposited with the Library of Congress). 157).. I have no other means of communication but my voice: to scream. to sigh. 34. Pramoedya explained how. The sharp escalation of violence against Chinese Indonesians in Jakarta during the civil unrest of 1998 was. and his discussion of the lingua franca of bahasa Indonesia in Fetish. Much of this work was published in Pramoedya’s Tempo Doeloe: Antologi Sastra Pra-Indonesia (Anthology of pre-Indonesian literature) (Jakarta: Hasta Mitra. In later conversations. For more on the circumstances surrounding the original publication in 1960 of Hoakiau di Indonesia. On the evening after Pramoedya had returned to New York City from Ithaca—only a day or two behind the typewritten responses faxed from Ben Anderson’s house—I asked him. but rather on the original. This exchange between James Siegel and Pramoedya might productively be read in the context of James Siegel’s extensive discussion of Javanese in Solo in the New Order (1986). And when even that means of communication is seized and taken away from me. See also Will Schwalbe’s comments in Harold Augenbraum (2000). Revolution (1997). he would ask his students to go to the library to gather primary sources—above all. thanking him for the typewritten responses.244
Soliloquy is not based on the two-volume Indonesian edition (Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu). 81). 29. He lays particular emphasis on the word “dialogue” (“one word otherwise rare and precious in his loneliness”) in the passage just translated. Pramoedya’s arguments about the formative contributions of Chinese Indonesians to Indonesian history sought to counteract the rising anti-Chinese sentiments of the early 1960s.
. 30. see ibid. The English-language reader might also consult the various passages translated by Mrázek. at least in part. 31. what his second impressions of America were. 35. See also Benedict Anderson’s discussion of language in Pramoedya’s work (especially in Language and Power ). Arok-Dedes and Mangir were both published in 2000. ah-yes.” He had been driving all day from upstate New York (spending much of the time caught in trafWc in Chinatown). Recognition.
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Anderson. Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony. 1999.net/~agbardsley/goen. Seth.J.html. ———. 1990. Pheng. Pramoedya explained that he had no desire to go to the cinema (“when you have been in prison for so long. Ithaca. ed. Mrázek. 1989.” Indonesia 61 (April 1996): 51–92. “Willkommensgruß an den Literaturnobelpreisträger 1999 Günter Grass” (2000). Cheah. Goenawan Mohamad.” In Text/Politics in Island Southeast Asia: Essays in Interpretation. Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia. April 22. 1 (1996): 147–64.. Inscribing the Future: History as Prophecy in Colonial Java.” Address given at the Asia Society. He also spoke of a time when an American Wlm crew came to Indonesia (in the late 1950s. 37. 37).” New York Times.: Cornell University Press. your focus tends to be questions of justice”).THE VOICE OF PRAMOEDYA ANANTA TOER
36. “Surat Terbuka Buat Pramoedya Ananta Toer. ———. early 1960s) to make a movie of Joseph Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly that was. Roskies. 191–220. no. “The Early Fiction of Pramoedya Ananta Toer. “Fear of the Word: A Conversation with Will Schwalbe on Publishing Pramoedya Ananta Toer. GoGwilt. Pramoedya took issue with the racist depiction of natives in the Wlm. St. no. 1946–1949. As when. “Only the Deaf Hear Well.
———. 2000. Trans. Leiden: KITLV Press. A History of Modern Indonesia since c. Recognition. Indonesia 36 (October 1983): 25–48. Buru. gn. Revolution.” Trans. Ricklefs. Calif. Modern Indonesian Literature. Shiraishi. New York: Hyperion. N. ———. ———. “Willkommensgruß an den Literaturnobelpreisträger 1999 Günter Grass” (Vorgetragen im der Nationalbibliothek am 30 November 1999). 1995. Ithaca. 2d ed. “Perburuan 1950 and Keluarga Gerilya 1950. 1996. 1997. Jakarta: Lentera. N. Princeton.” Bulletin Online 153 (July 1999). Stanford. 1994–96. James. 1993. 1999. Max Lane. 1912–1926.: Princeton University Press. Willem Samuels. Benedict Anderson. ———. Jakarta: Lentera.J. N. “My Apologies in the Name of Experience. 1991.Y. This Earth of Mankind. Solo in the New Order: Language and Hierarchy in an Indonesian City. 2 vols. ———. April 16. At http://www. A. Lied van een stomme: Brieven van Buru.J. Indonesia 61: (April 1996): 1–14. Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu [I]: Catatan-catatan dari P. Princeton.” Trans. Alex Bardsley.Goethe. Trans. ———. An Age in Motion: Popular Radicalism in Java. At http://www. Teeuw. Siegel. My English translation of the German translation from Indonesian by Elisabeth Seoprapto-Hastrich. ———.
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