It was a long time ago when I first read Pram’s book, Bumi Manusia. I was a student of high school in Sumenep, East Madura.
A friend of mine who was a university student had a complete collection of Pulau Buru Tetralogy. He suggested me to read it because, as he said passionately that time, those books are important ones. They would be useful when I was going to study in university, he said.
So I read them without any idea how those books could be useful for me in the future. I thought that, after I had finished reading them, those books had no difference to other novels I had read, such as Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’bah by Hamka.
But they seemed special for me when I was studying in Nasional Islamic University of Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta. I had an impression that Pram presented history in a different way from the way schools presented it. History in Pram’s novels is not just history, it is an alternative history; a history that doesn’t officially released by the state.
Moreover, as I told in other place of my blog, Pram tried to make his readers conscious about their country. You will know Indonesia better after you read Pram’s novels, not only because they contain historical settings about Indonesia, but they also give a critical point of view to the readers
Another thing that made those novels looked special for me is the fact that they were written when Pram exiled in Buru Island. As you know, Buru Island was the place for political prisoners in early Soeharo presidential era. Thousands of people was exiled there without any trial just because they became PKI’s activists or have any connection with it. In Buru Island, they were looked out, forced to work, and even tortured by military officials who were assigned there. Many prisoners were dead. But Pram and his friends tried to survive with whatever way they could do, including performing their skills to entertain their horrific lives. Pram, who was a good writer, wrote a story to tell for his fellow prisoners. That story is now we know as Pulau Buru Tetralogy.
So that’s why reading Pram’s novels gives me some kind of pleasure; a pleasure you feel when you find something new out of your mind. Reading them, I have a feeling like revealing something is hidden by those old people from the youths. As a matter of fact, some of Pram’s writings were forbidden by government and some were burned that no one can read them anymore.
Now I understand why my friend suggested me to read Pram’s Pulau Buru tetralogy a long ago. Those books have awakened a kind of consciousness inside myself as an Indonesian people, i.e. a consciousness that I actually am a human being who is equally the same in dignity as those people of European countries. Such a consciousness was a rare idea in our colonial era. It even had to be struggled, because in colonial era Indonesian people were treated unjustly as unhuman. Pram tells those injustice stories in a very good style in his novels.
The benefits of reading Pram’s novels work to me. So, I think, it should work to other people too. That thought drives me to suggest my younger friends to read Prams novels, just like my old friend suggested me a long ago. I also try to discuss with them about history and other stuffs related to Pram’s novels. And the result is surprisingly good for them. Those friends who have finished reading Pram’s novels show an increasing interest to read books. In other words, their literacy is increasing.
Another effect I see after they read Pram’s novels is an increasing interest to do writing. I mean, they not only do trifling and casual writings like we often see most teens do on Facebook or Twitter, but also a serious and creative ones with a certain purpose. When they say about writing to me, I soon suggest them to write in blog and to try to train their discipline in doing it.
Those facts make Pramoedya Ananta Toer as a favorite writer, beside other great Indonesian writers, for me. So far, not all Pram’s books I have read yet. Pulau Buru tetralogy, Arok Dedes, Arus Balik, Gadis Pantai, Panggil Aku Kartini Saja, and Jalan Deandels are the ones I have read. Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu is one which nowadays I want to read the most.