Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book launch - Arok of Java

PramoedyaWhy did Pramoedya like to say that his book Arok of Java was his best? I typed in the title into Google and found that there is already a small buzz starting in the literary world. Arok of Java will be launched at SilverfishBooks, 58-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru at 5.00pm on Saturday 24th November 2007. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome.

Arok became a king of Java bearing the name of "Arok", he who changes everything. Is somebody who changes everything a revolutionary? Was indeed this 13th century bandit turned king really a revolutionary? Is this the picture that Pramoedya Ananta Toer presents in this (mostly) realist novel? In Pramoedya's version of this early pre-Indonesian history, Arok is not just a bandit who becomes a king, but a Brahman-Kstaria-Sudra fusion. But this fusion does not amount to any super-human, for Arok is also a creature of his time and environment with all its limitations. The contradiction between the impulse to liberation and the constraints of a time bound consciousness is one of the things at the heart of this novel, which Pramoedya considered one of his most important works. How and why was this and why does it make for such a gripping read?

At the coming book launch Max Lane will look at the place of Pramoedya in Indonesian cultural life and his legacy as well as ask whether indeed Arok, a king of Java with a name meaning, "he who changes everything" was a revolutionary? Is this the picture that Pramoedya Ananta Toer presents? Max Lane will talk for 30 to 45 mins and then take some questions.

Max Lane is the translator of WS Rendra and also Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Buru tetralogy. He has written hundreds of articles on Indonesia, East Timor and the Philippines. His latest book, UNFINISHED NATION: Indonesia before and after Suharto, will be published by VERSO Books in May, 2008. He has travelled back and forth and sometimes lived in Indonesia since 1969. He was the founder of INSIDE INDONESIA magazine, the only English language popular magazine covering Indonesian affairs. He has been a teacher, diplomat, aid worker, journalist and writer as well as translator.

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