FOOTSTEPS by Pramoedya Ananta Toer


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 From noted Indonesian dissident Toer (Child of All Nations, 1993, etc.), the third novel in an ambitious but flawed quartet continues the story of Javanese patriot Minke, who now takes up the anticolonial fight in earnest. Like Toer's previous books, Footsteps was first composed orally while the author was a political prisoner; he remains under house arrest in Jakarta, and his books are banned in Indonesia. Also like its predecessors, unfortunately, it is a clumsy mix of earnest political reportage and often lyrical personal detail. Minke, the series' protagonist, who has dabbled in journalism while wanting to become a doctor, is finally accepted at the medical school for ``natives'' in Batavia. There he is expected to wear indigenous, not European, dress: The Dutch colonial powers in the early 1900s are as ethnically doctrinaire as their Afrikaner cousins in South Africa. Minke soon realizes he is not cut out to be a doctor--especially a native one, who must work for the colonial rulers at a fixed low rate. Still drawn to politics, he meets beautiful Mei, who is working to establish Chinese self-help organizations in the Indies and urges him to do something substantive for his people as well as become a doctor. They marry, and when Mei dies after a severe bout of malaria, Minke forms an embryonic nationalist organization. But his grades are poor, and he is expelled from medical school. Next he founds a magazine and, when it succeeds, a newspaper, the first to be owned and operated by natives. Along the way he acquires powerful enemies, who force him to leave both Java and his new wife, the warrior Princess, who killed one of Minke's enemies with her own pistol. But the struggle will continue. As usual, vivid vignettes of colonial folly, local characters, and customs at the turn of the century, but the political agenda continues to be obtrusive.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-688-13748-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994


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NonfictionTHE MUTE'S SOLILOQUY by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
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