Posted by: koolwine | February 1, 2012

Indonesia: All That Is Gone

Eight beautiful but bleak short stories reveal the harsh realities of Indonesian life on the island of Java in the early- and mid-1900s.

Country Focus: Indonesia

All That Is Gone
By Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Translated by Willem Samuels
Originally published in Indonesia as Cerita dari Blora, 1952.
Originally published in America by Hyperion, 2004.
My edition: Penguin, 2005.
253 pgs.

Acclaim: Pramoedya won awards not only for his writing, but also for being freedom of speech incarnate

Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Time period:

To make a long story short: Some are these eight tales are told in first person, others in the third, but all speak in the same soft, comforting voice that offsets their frequently grim storylines.  Wistful remembrances of childhood unfold in the titular “All That Is Gone.”  “Inem” becomes an unsuspecting child bride.  “In Twilight Born” tells of a dream of a free Indonesia deferred.  A boy toughs out a Muslim ritual in “Circumcision.”  “Revenge” describes a soldier’s horrified reaction to the savage beating of a spy.  A severely wounded veteran decides not to burden his family on “Independence Day.”  “Acceptance” is the key to a girl’s and her siblings’ survival during Indonesia’s political turmoil.  The light-hearted “The Rewards of Marriage” breaks the fourth wall, describing a story’s creation and ending to the reader.


“I wish Mother and Father were here,” Hutomo softly cried.
A loud creaking and then a cracking sound drew their attention back to the house.  The timbers that had once supported the house were caving in.
“Who can we turn to?” Diah asked sadly.
“Nobody,” Sri told her.  “Not the Republicans, not the Dutch, not even our neighbors.  We’re going to have to accept that,” she added.  “If I’ve learned one thing from all that we’ve gone through, it’s that you can overcome anything if you can learn to forget about yourself.  Pretend you’re not even there, and all the suffering vanishes.”
Sri looked again toward the site of their former home.  All that remained was skeleton of what it had been before.  And all that Sri could do was sigh.

The author:

Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Known as Pramoedya (prah-MOO-dee-ya), Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006) authored over 30 books and is Indonesia’s best-known novelist.  His parents were ardent nationalists and much of Pramoedya’s writing critiqued the Dutch occupation of his country.   Pramoedya was imprisoned for his political beliefs on three separate occasions.  He devised his masterpiece, the Buru Quartet, during the 14 years that he was jailed on the island of Buru.   These highly acclaimed four novels chart the rise of Indonesian nationalism.   Upon his death, his daughter, Tatiana Ananta, told the AP that her father “dedicated his whole life to this country through his work.”

Overall Rating:

(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and  5 books = lit up)



  1. This looks like a great book. Bali is one of my favorite places on this planet. It is not Muslim however..but Hindu. This makes it different than the rest of Indonesia. It is magical there.
    I got the book you sent me and want to thank you. I will add it to the John F Kennedy High School library in Berlin.


    • You are so right! Although Indonesia is 88% Muslim, 93% of Bali’s inhabitants are Hindu. But your description- “Magical” – transcends any religious prejudices I may have and just makes me want to visit the “Island of 1,000 Puras.”


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