toilet reading - arok of java

for my toilet* reading, i have been patiently working through Arok of Java by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (who passed away in 2006). i have read 1 other book by him from the Buru Quartet entitled Child of the Nations. but Toer said this was his best book. if you read it, i'm sure you will agree with him.

(btw *toilet reading is as it reads - reading during toilet time, so that no time is wasted staring at the door or toilet roll or into blank space!!))

Arok is a wonderful book about indonesia's early history which was clearly rooted in hinduism. yet Toer finds no problem writing about this although he is a muslim. nevertheless, it is compelling reading and i wonder whether the government should make it a compulsory reading for our malaysian students for literature. sure beats many of the prevailing so-called malaysian novels. one that my children had to read for their secondary school curriculum is called Bukit Kepong written by an ex-policeman. my children's verdict: right at the bottom!

a young angry Toer from the 1960's


an older and wiser Toer (from 2004 photo)


below is a write-up from Horizon, the book's publisher: (only complaint: the english translation needs some editing, especially in the front portion with numerous typographical errors). max lane does a pretty good translation from bahasa indonesia into english while retaining the indonesian feel. maybe i should try and get a bahasa indonesian version to read to enjoy Toer's writing. bahasa indonesian and bahasa malaysia are very close.

and i agree that the paintings themselves are as worthy as the book. at the moment, they have been poorly scanned and the low resolution (pictures are pixelated) does not do justice to the painter and his wonderful pictorial interpretation of the book.


By Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Translated by Max Lane)

ISBN: 978-981-05-8045-2

About the Book
It is the 13th century in Java. Rebelliousness stirs among peasant farmers and Brahmin priests alike. Slavery has returned and men, women and children labour to find gold for Java’s rulers. Bearing the symbols of spiritual power, a young scholar-bandit and rebel appears, called Arok – “he who upturns everything”. As the rebellion spreads, it is Arok himself whom the rulers employ to suppress it. Thus emerges one of the epic political conspiracies of Javanese history. At stake is power in Java itself, the Lady Consort Dedes, and an end to slavery and oppression.
This novel presents Pramoedya’s version of a great legend emerging out of the mists of historical past, is a tale of palace politics, conspiracy and revolution. It sets out the beginning of historical process that began on Java and gives the most vivid picture of the political, cultural and social forces which Pramoedya sees as having remained crucial until even today: the castes of the Brahman intellectuals, the Satria military and the Sudra, the people, the farmers, the artisans and labourers.

About the Author

Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006) was born in Blora, central Java, the eldest son a headmaster and activist. He wrote more than 40 works, including novels, short stories, plays, history, literary criticism and more than 400 newspaper essays. His Buru Tetrology has been hailed as a brilliant work of epic historical fiction.
Pramoedya is survived by his second wife, Maemunah, with whom he had five children. He had three children from his first marriage, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

the malaysian star had a write-up sometime ago. you can read it in the link below: