The story behind the writing of THE BURU QUARTET by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Which is comprised of four books THIS EARTH OF MANKIND, CHILD OF ALL NATIONS, FOOTSTEPS, and HOUSE OF GLASS) is worthy of a couple of novels itself. It’s a story of tremendous perseverance over violence and torture.
Toer, Indonesia’s greatest writer, was detained in the infamous Buru Island prison as a political prisoner for ten years by the US backed dictatorship of Suharto. He was denied paper and pencil and so told this story orally to other prisoners who helped him remember the details so he could write it down later when he was finally released.
It was a travesty that Toer never won the Nobel Prize for literature but the US working with Indonesia may have had something to do with that. More on Toer’s life and times here http://www.counterpunch.org/2006/05/02/on-the-death-of-pramoedya-ananta-toer/
THE BURU QUARTER, I’ve read is perhaps semi-autobiographical, with Minke, the main character, as a stand-in for Toer himself or other Indonesian anti-colonialist nationalist leaders. The forward to the first book describes this type of writing as creating “a new historical personality in the process of being forged by history itself”
I’m really excited to start these books. I’ve read THE GIRL FROM THE COAST by Toer which I reviewed here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/02/girl-from-coast-by-pramoeda-ananta-toer.html as well as a number of his short stories but this is regarded by pretty much everyone as his masterwork.