A nation is exiled from itself to prison; a nation is re-awakened through the storytelling of its origins; understand Indonesia through Pramoedya’s books
In 1981, a new company, Hasta Mitra, founded by three men just released from over a decade in prison, published a novel written in a prison camp by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The novel was This Earth of Mankind. It told the story of the early gestation of the Indonesian national awakening. The dictatorship eventually banned it after several months of tactical struggle by the three men, Pramoedya himself and the fighters of Hasta Mitra, Joeoef Isak and Hasyim Rachman. In defiance of the dictatorship, they went on to publish the three sequels to This Earth of Mankind, each time followed by another battle and then a ban.
Max Lane has been engaged with Indonesia for over fifty years. In the 1970s, he translated W.S. Rendra’s play The Struggle of the Naga Tribe, which was performed in English in Australia and Malaysia. He spent time with Rendra’s group, Bengkel Teater. In the 1980s, he worked in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta when he started translating Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s This Earth of Mankind and its three sequels, together now known as the Buru Quartet.