The Indonesian writer, Pramoeda Ananta Toer, the author of THE GIRL FROM THE COAST, which I have just read has had the dual honor of being imprisoned by the Dutch and later by the autocratic Suharto regime. This book simply written is one of the best examples of how little a woman’s life is worth in a place like Indonesia compound that with poverty and the life of a woman is worth even less.
The heroine, the daughter of a poor fisherman, becomes the wife of the Bendoro,an Indonesian nobleman through an arranged marriage. The reader is constantly shown how she is little more than servant despite all the ritual that goes along with being wife of a nobleman of this level.
We realize later she is but a “practice” wife and is married to the Bendoro only at his whim and to bear him children-sort of a long term prostitute. Later he will need to take a wife closer to in stature to his place in society which leads to the inevitable sad ending.
Toer’s style simple and full of the art of not saying too much makes me want to read his most famous work the four novels that make up THE BURU QUARTET. He makes quite a statement here without a lot of histrionics.