“In January 2014 Joshua Oppenheimer’s film on Indonesia, The Act of Killing, was nominated for an academy award, reflecting its penetration into mainstream film watching. Many people will be introduced to Indonesia by this vivid study of the country’s ruling lumpen elite. Another, very different, introduction to Indonesia might be reading Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s historical novel Bumi Manusia (This Earth of Mankind).

The English language edition of This Earth of Mankind was published by Penguin in 1983. The sequels to this novel, Child of All Nations, Footsteps and House of Glass, were published over the following several years by Penguin in Australia and the United Kingdom. They were launched into the United States by William Morrow, Hyperion and Penguin in the 1990s. As their translator, I am very pleased to see that they are still in print 30 years later, having had many reprints. The four novels are likely to appear soon as eBooks, Penguin USA having bought the eBook rights. They appear already to be advertised as eBooks for Kindle on


Pramoedya’s work has, on the whole, met with critical acclaim in the West, in particular the United States. The publication of other translations followed, such as Silent Songs of a Mute,Fugitive, Girl from the Coast and collections of short stories. In 1992 the New York Times reviewer wrote:

Now comes a book of far greater scope and depth from independent Indonesia’s greatest but still most controversial fiction writer, whose career spans more than 40 years. “This Earth of Mankind,” the first in a cycle of four novels, is the tale of a bittersweet coming of age in Java, Indonesia’s dominant island, almost a century ago. Through it, we are taken back to the days of nascent Indonesian nationalism. But the author is a humanist, not a propagandist, and so his novel is also a wonderful example of the best storytelling tradition of his country.[1]

In 1996, after House of Glass appeared, the Washington Post reviewer wrote:

The Buru Tetralogy is one of the 20th century’s great artistic creations, a work of the richest variety, color, size and import, founded on a profound belief in mankind’s potential for greatness and shaped by a huge compassion for mankind’s weakness.[2]

Jamie James in his article “The Indonesiad” in The New Yorker wrote:

Pramoedya’s masterwork is the Buru Quartet, a cycle of novels set in the final, decadent years of Dutch colonialism in Java. The series follows the life of a revolutionary journalist named Minke. The first native Javanese boy to attend the elite Dutch colonial high school, Minke is full of idealistic notions about European progress. The process of his disillusionment and forging of his Indonesian identity – a new element in the periodic table of history – [forms] the novels’ core. The Buru Quartet is saturated with the gothic gloom and steamy atmosphere of the rain forest. With the publication this month, by William Morrow, of the quartet’s final volume, “House of Glass,” and the paperback reissue, by Penguin, of its predecessors, “This Earth of Mankind,” “Child of All Nations,” and “Footsteps,” American readers can now follow Pramoedya’s saga of Minke – one of the most ambitious undertakings in postwar world literature – from beginning to end.[3]


Reposting: Indonesia: 1965 and the Counter-Revolution against the Nation.

Indonesia:  1965 and the Counter-Revolution against the Nation.

By Max Lane


“The impact of the counter-revolution was, however, even deeper than the sum of these combined policies – from mass murder and terror to totalitarian imposed ignorance and passivity. The 1965 counter-revolution was a pre-emptive purge aimed at the prevention of the final unfolding and completion of the revolutions that were brewing: a national revolution as well as a social revolution.”


Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, of immense geopolitical strategic importance straddling the sea and air lanes between the Indian and Pacific oceans, and with substantial mineral resources. Yet today, and for the last 50 years, its international political presence has been almost zero, including on the Left. The primary reason for this is the 1965 counter-revolution in Indonesia and the consequent radical remaking-cum-unmaking of the country, the nation. On the one hand this counter-revolution produced an Indonesian state and economy that posed no threat to either western or Japanese imperial economic or geo-political interests, and on the other a society whose new post-counter-revolutionary experience would emasculate any progressive class fightback for decades, even until now, and thus also its intellectual and cultural life.

Continue reading “Reposting: Indonesia: 1965 and the Counter-Revolution against the Nation.”

Minke yang menceritakan ceritera BUMI MANUSIA?

Silahkan membaca kembali halaman pertama BUMI MANUSIA. Membaca kembali dan merenungkannya. Ada rahasianya. Mau tahu rahasianya: terpaksa anda mencari lewat membaca RUMAH KACA.  (Disini tidak saya pasang spoiler.)

Rahasia lainnya bisa ditemukan di buku INDONESIA TIDAK HADIR DI BUMI MANUSIA.

BTW: Versi bahasa Inggeris BUMI MANUSIA – yaitu THIS EARTH OF MANKIND bisa didapat di Indonesia di toko buku Periplus di berbagai kota Indonesia.




This essay summarizes some of the basic features of the “informal proletariat” in Indonesia using the definition presented in Mike Davis’s Planet of the Slums. These include features that flow from the low levels of industrialization of the national economy as well as those related to the day-to-day socioeconomic reality of this specific segment of the urban proletariat. The essay goes on to show that the fact that the “informal proletariat” predominated within the proletariat as a whole facilitated forms of different political mobilization and organization than that usually associated with proletarian politics, such as trade unions, during the period of intensifying political struggle against the authoritarian Suharto government, especially in the 1990s. It also notes how the relationship between radicalizing students, convinced of the idea of “democratic revolution,” as espoused by V.I. Lenin, also facilitated these non-trade union forms of organization. It identifies the interacting relationship between the mobilization of the formal and informal sectors of the proletariat during periods of political struggle as a possible important element of addressing the question as to what extent the informal proletariat might be able to assert political agency.

Get full article here


Article: Old Politics Rises to Challenge New Politics in Jakarta by Max Lane

Published Singapore  22 November 2016 in ISEAS Perspectives  CLICK here to read.

Singapore Book Launch Update for INDONESIA AND NOT: POEMS AND OTHERWISE.

Singapore Writers Festival Book launch:


Author: Max Lane

DATE / TIME: 6 Nov, Sun 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM

VENUE:  The Arts House, Gallery II, Singapore

This is a collection of poetry, prose pieces and short stories inspired by the experiences of Max Lane, translator of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Buru Quartet and collaborator with other Indonesian and Southeast Asian intellectuals and actors in Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

The book launch will comprise:

An IN CONVERSATION session with author Max Lane. Lane will talk about his 45 years of experience with Indonesia and Southeast Asian and its relationship to this collection as well as his work on a major creative non-fiction book on the origins and meaning for Indonesia of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s This Earth of Mankind Buru Quartet novels.

But there is also a second Max Lane, a Singaporean, a musician. He has written music to some of the poetry. There will be some playing of these musicalized poems. (see below for more info). Continue reading “Singapore Book Launch Update for INDONESIA AND NOT: POEMS AND OTHERWISE.”

Tentang masalah “nation”.

Tentang masalah “nation”.

(Bagian 1 – disempurnakan October 21, 2016)

Oleh Max Lane

(Maaf atas kesalahan dan ketidakjelasan Bahasa. Saya menulis ini langsung dalam Bahasa Indonesia.)

Dalam bahasa Indonesia kata “nation” biasanya diterjemahkan ‘bangsa’ atau ‘nasion’. Sebenarnya kata ini sulit dimaknai dalam situasi-situasi tertentu yang terjadi. Komunitas manusia yang namanya “nation” adalah produk berkembangnnya sistem produksi baru yang bernama kapitalisme di Eropa. Sistem produksi baru ini, yang semakin memanfaatkan teknik produksi menggunakan ilmu teknologi, melahirkan aktor sejarah baru, yaitu kaum pengusaha pemilik alat produksi baru tsb. Kelas sosial ini tidak bisa terima keterbelakangan cara berpikir kaum bangsawan dalam hampir segala hal. Mereka juga tak bisa terima Eropa terbagi2 “kerajaan”2 kecil dimana2, dgn mata uangnya sendiri, bahasanya sendiri, dan segala macam lokalisme yang lain. Kaum pengusaha ini (kaum bourjuis) membangun gerakan bertujuan mendirikan wilayah politik dan pasar yang lebih besar dan luas, dgn bahasa yang sama, dan dengan kebudayaan baru yang menolak keterbelakangan pikiran sistem feodal, baik yg berlaku di kalangan bangsawan maupun rakyat. Rakyat banyak (yg miskin sekali itu) sering juga mendukung gerakan kaum burjuis ini untuk hancurkan feodalisme dan menjadi kekuatan penting dalam prosesnya. Tetapi kemudian dikhianati oleh kaum bourjuis yg memimpinnya. Continue reading “Tentang masalah “nation”.”