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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Leadership and the power of the pen

“I don't write to give joy to readers but to give them a conscience.” – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Born on this date in 1925, Toer was an Indonesian author of novels, short stories, essays, polemics and histories of his homeland and its people, and a leading writer of stories about the Indonesian struggle for independence during the mid-20th century.

Political criticisms were often subtle in his writing, and as outspoken as he was against colonialism, he also stood up for the rights of minorities and against racism and corruption of the Indonesian new Government after independence had been achieved.  Because of his views he was imprisoned on several occasions and became a cause célèbre for advocates of human rights and freedom of expression.   
                           Considered a major candidate for the Nobel Prize before his death in 2006 (only living authors can receive the prize), he earned many of the world's top writing awards including the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, the Fund for Free Expression Award, and the P.E.N Centre Award.

His most notable (and famous) works are the “Buru Quartet,” written during a long period of his second imprisonment for his outspoken views.  Those books – This Earth of Mankind, Child of All Nations, Footsteps, and House of Glass – were smuggled from prison and subsequently banned in Indonesia until 2000.  Widely acclaimed they've now been published in more than 20 languages.

Despite his celebrity, he was a quiet man who let his writing speak for on his people's behalf.  “Even though no one admits it,” he once said,  “writers are leaders in their communities.”

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