Google marked what would have been the 92nd birthday of Indonesian patriot Pramoedya Ananta Toer on Monday with a doodle depicting the long-incarcerated novelist hard at work at his typewriter.
Pramoedya — also known as Pram — held a mirror to both Japanese and Dutch colonialism, Google writes. But his life, as well as his art, became a symbol of Indonesia’s unbowed spirit.
A stenographer turned journalist who inherited political activism from his father, Pramoedya was jailed by the Dutch for two years in 1947 for being “anticolonial.” While behind bars he penned his first novel, The Fugitive. After Indonesia’s independence, he was jailed in 1960 after writing a book titled The Chinese in Indonesia, criticizing President Sukarno’s anti-Chinese policy.
Pramoedya was imprisoned again in 1965, this time by the ascendant Suharto regime for his alleged links to the Indonesian Communist Party, and later he was shipped to the penal colony of Buru Island in 1969. While a prisoner on Buru, he wrote his most famous work: the four-volume Buru Quartet. The Buru Quartet — about a Javanese boy named Minke in the last years of Dutch colonialism — began life as a tale Pramoedya, initially denied paper and pens, would tell to his fellow prisoners. The makeshift scraps of paper it eventually came to be written on had to be smuggled out of jail by Pramoedya’s friend, a German priest. He was released in 1979 but was kept under house arrest and police surveillance until the fall of Suharto in 1998.
Pramoedya, who died in 2006 at the age of 81, never stopped struggling for the betterment of his country. “I am half blind and almost totally deaf, but I won’t stop being angry because not many people are outraged enough at the state of Indonesia,” he told the Associated Press two years earlier.
—With reporting by Yenni Kwok