Dissident author receives literary award

Issue 

Dissident author receives literary award

Pramoedya Ananta Toer, one of Indonesia's foremost authors, was chosen on July 19 to receive this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award for his work in journalism, literature and creative communications, and in producing exceptional works dealing with the historical awakening and modern experiences of Indonesian society.

The response of the Indonesian government — which in April banned Pramoedya's prison memoirs, Silent Song of a Mute — was somewhat guarded. In reply to questions from reporters on the following day, the coordinating minister of security, Soesilo Soedarman, said only, "That's their [the Ramon Magsaysay foundation's] business" and to "just leave it".

Pramoedya has been quoted as saying that he would try to attend the ceremony on August 31 in Manila, but doubted that he would be able to go due to health problems and the fact that his passport was revoked in 1961. A week later, on July 25, defence minister Edi Sudrajat announced that Pramoedya had been forbidden to travel to Manila, saying that the foundation organisers "understand" Jakarta's decision, "so that it will not lead to a problem".

The 70-year-old Pramoedya will still receive a medallion and a gift of US$50,000. He is the 10th Indonesian to receive the prize.

Pramoedya was incarcerated in the notorious Buru island prison for 10 years after the New Order regime jailed hundreds of thousands of left and progressive "sympathisers" when it seized power in 1965. Pramoedya's many works include Perburuan (The Fugitive), Keluarga Gerilya (Guerilla Family), Gadis Pantai (The Girl from the Coast) and Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind).

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