The Inhuman Condition

There is a young Dutch woman who plays an important role in his development whom he befriends. That she doesn't assume a stance of superiority surprises him. And this provokes an epiphany, that "I was not a colonial underling, that Asians and Europeans are equal." This makes him see that "one's psychological and historical burdens can actually be turned around to become our sources of strength, not of weakness"— a lesson that applies not just to the daughter to whom this is written, but to himself and his fellow Indonesians.

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The Mute's Soliloquy
By Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Translated by Willem Samuels
Hyperion East, 375 pp., $27.50
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Pramoedya has used these "burdens" well— imposed by force of circumstance, not to mention the circumstance of force— creating a great and passionate but clear-eyed work, shaped as much by a humanist/rationalist outlook, a writer's iron discipline and, above all, by the desire to not forget. Suharto and his minions had every reason to fear him. More than armies on the march, a free mind, especially one as sharp as Pramoedya's, is still what makes tyrants tremble and empires collapse.

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