The first US publication of a somewhat unsatisfactory second novel from Indonesian political dissident Toer (The Fugitive, 1990). Set during the last two years of the 19th century in then- Dutch-ruled Java (now Indonesia), Toer's story of Minke, a Javanese native and everyman of sorts (he has no family name by choice), was first told to the author's fellow political prisoners in the 1970's. Minke, a student and embryonic Javanese nationalist, has broken with his family, who seek advancement through the colonial system, and dreams of becoming a writer who will demonstrate to the world the great talents of the ``Native'' Javanese. But then, while he runs a furniture business on the side and studies, he is introduced to the mysterious Mellema family, who live in a splendid compound in the country. Here, he meets the delicate and beautiful ``mixed race'' girl Annelies, her boorish brother Robert, and their mother, the brilliant and forceful ``Native'' concubine Nyai. Prejudice against ``Natives'' is rampant, and as Minke becomes increasingly involved with Nyai's family intrigues and learns their history, he too becomes part of their tragic destiny. Victims of racial prejudice, Minke and Annelies--who defy convention and marry--are punished by the colonial authorities and must part when Annelies is banished to the Netherlands. A just indictment of the pettiness and cruelty of excruciatingly race-conscious colonialism--and Toer has vividly evoked a special time and place--but the story, unlike the far more subtle and universal The Fugitive, is too obvious a polemic.