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This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet) (1996, Penguin (Non-Classics)) 5 stars

This Earth of Mankind

5 stars

Toer was an Indonesian intellectual imprisoned by the Dutch during the struggle for independence in the 1940s, after which he set out to write about the birth of Indonesian nationalism. He began a decades-long research effort, but after the 1965 coup he was imprisoned on the island of Buru for suspected communist sympathies and all his work destroyed. He composed his greatest work, the "Buru Quartet" orally while imprisoned, and then published it later. The works were seen as subversive, and banned in Indonesia from their publishing in the early 80s until 2000.

This is the first work in the series and is fully as powerful as its origin story suggests. Its narrator Minke comes of age in 1890s Java, and due his high birth is educated at the top European school in the "Dutch Indies". But his place in the racial hierarchy is clear: he is a "Native", below …