Indonesian Independence Day is observed on August 17. It is a celebration of their declaration of independence from Dutch colonizers in 1945. The country was finally granted independence by colonials in December 1949. Sukarno, the first President, opted to commemorate 17 th August 1945 as the independence day of Indonesia, though it wasn’t until 2005 that the Dutch finally accepted Sukarno’s declaration!

With Sukarno and Suharto, writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer also made a bid for independence as he felt, “Each injustice has to be fought against”. Toer also known as Pak Pram the freedom fighter and writer spent some years in jail and under house arrest for his outspoken writing, both under the Colonials and under Suharto in the island of Buru. He came up with the Buru Quartet and eventually was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1988. He died in 2006. A google doodle did  mark his ninety second birthday in 2017.IMG_0632

 

Amba, a novel from Indonesia, written by award winning writer Lakshmi Pamuntjak, was a modern take on the story of Amba and Bhisma from The Mahabharata, set against the backdrop of the violence of 1965 and the Buru penal colony set up during Suharto’s regime. Published in 2012, it became a national bestseller within Indonesia.

It was first translated to German in 2015 and sold 10,000 copies within three months of its launch. Later the English translation renamed it The Question of Red (2016). The novel did win some amount of international acclaim.

Pankaj Mishra reports from Indonesia: LRB

Pankaj Mishra
Pankaj Mishra

I first visited Indonesia in 1995. For someone from India, as I was, to arrive in a country that was once part of the Hindu-Buddhist ecumene was to drift into a pleasurable dream where minor figures familiar from childhood readings of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata loomed over city squares. The Dutch, unlike the British in India, had inflicted few obviously self-aggrandising monuments on the country they exploited. Squatters now lived in the decaying colonial district of Kota in Jakarta where the Dutch had once created a replica of home, complete with mansions, canals and cobbled squares. By the time I visited, the language of the colonial power had been discarded and a new national language, Bahasa Indonesia, had helped pull together an extensive archipelago comprising more than 17,500 islands and including hundreds of ethnic groups.