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This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet) Paperback – May 1, 1996

67 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Buru tetralogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Toer ( The Fugitive ), an Indonesian novelist and political dissident, began this novel as a series of stories told to fellow political prisoners held on Buru Island. The tale is narrated mostly by a brilliant young student, Minke, a native among Dutch colonialists and mixed-bloods in turn-of-the-century Java. He becomes involved, romantically and otherwise, with a wealthy family headed by a tough, self-educated concubine. Minke's love for her beautiful daughter draws him into conflict with colonial legal authorities, his own highly placed father and the girl's sinister brother. The richly textured depictions of the East Indies mercantile life and social ills as well as family tensions suggest Conrad and Dickens, but the novel's striking echoes of an oral culture and folklore are Toer's own. The result is simultaneously a compelling romantic tragedy and a moving dramatization of the pressures of race and class that inform the colonial situation.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Protagonist Minke is due all the honors of a Dutch high school graduate in his native Java. Though the 20th century is just dawning, he is a champion of science, technology, and openness amongst the many ethnic levels of Java's colonial society. Himself a Native, Minke marries Annelies, a Mixed-Blood daughter of an astute concubine, one whose owner has left her alone to develop and manage a vast business. When Minke moves in with Annelies and her mother, they form a family at once perfect within yet challenged from without by racial and legal threats that eventually destroy them all. Toer's novel is a beautiful archetype of the evils inherent in colonial and racially stratified societies. The novel was written during Toer's 14 years as a political prisoner, and his continuing city arrest in Jakarta is testimony to its power. Such extraordinary struggle has produced a novel worthy of its author's sacrifice.
- Paul E. Hutchison, Pequea, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Buru Quartet (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140256350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140256352
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Devin Rambo on October 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Kirkus review printed above damns Toer's novel with faint praise when it states that the book is "too obvious a polemic." Too obvious for whom? I wonder if the reviewer would take the same view of any other number of political novels which were used by their authors as a barely disguised fictional framework to attack flawed or unjust cultural values. Is The Grapes of Wrath too obvious a polemic? Of course not, and neither is This Earth of Mankind. Toer makes no effort to disguise the nature of his critique of the social and political values of colonial Indonesian society. Toer's narrative is brilliant; the characters are vivid and developed so well that we have no trouble identifying with them personally, and yet at the same time they are patently obvious symbols of the different racial and social strata in the world of which the novel is set. Toer has been accused of being overly melodramatic in this novel, and while I think that is a reasonable criticism, I have to disagree. The antagonists here are hissable characters, but Toer plays fair with them. They have a clear rationale for what they do and the justification for their actions may seem reasonable and even honorable to them even if we view it as an outrage. Toer balances this all with a tone that never comes across as angry, although given the hardships he himself has endured would make it perfectly understandable if the novel had been tinged with more brimstone. But the narrative does give one the sense of social and political displacement felt by Minke, the book's narrator, and by the family he meets in whose fate he becomes entangled. In This Earth of Mankind, Toer exposes the evils of a society based on and obsessed with castes of race and money, and in doing so has produced one of the essential political novels of the 20th Century.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence M. Yoder on August 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am impressed by this English translation of BUMI MANUSIA, but the original is still more rich and colorful. I lived for a decade 30 miles from Pramoedya's home town of Blora, presumably the B____ from which Minke comes. All of Pram's books were banned then and Pram himself was in the midst of his imprisonment on Buru, but I had discovered what an amazing opening they provided to the world of turn-of-the-century colonial Java. I am a student of Javanese history and culture, but Pram's works, beginning for me with TJERITA DARI BLORA (Stories from Blora), provided a florid vision to the realities of that world for people of every caste of the colonial social structure. Every time I went into a used book shop I searched for his works. THIS EARTH OF MANKIND is in my mind an unparalleled gift to Indonesia and the world, providing innumerable images of the range of human experience in colonial Java. The Kirkus reviewer needs to know that "nyai" is not a person's name but an appelation applied to unofficial "rightless" wives of European men who were part of the colonial system. There were many of them in every town. Read CHILD OF ALL NATIONS to learn how this particular woman became Ndoro Mellema's nyai. Pram's story opens the window for us to see a whole range of human experience heretofore hidden from public view even from present-day Indonesians who were denied access to Pram's works until recent years. The subsequent novels in the quartet carry on the stunning and poignant revelations. Grievously last month when I out of habit looked again for Pram's works in bookstores in Indonesia they had again disappeared from the shelves of major stores! The story goes on.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
The history of South East Asia is often misunderstood and misrepresented. By itself, this book stands as a classic love story of a timeless beauty. As an historical passage, this book brings home an understanding of the seeds of Indonesian nationalism. Anyone wishing to learn more about South East Asian history around the period of colonial rule and/or the struggles of a people against a cycle of abuse will find this story compelling, especially given the circumstances under which it was written. I loved the book from both the love story and historical perspectives.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bro Chan on September 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Plunged in economic, religious, social, and racial turmoil, the children of the "Jewel of the Pacific" nation today are left with a deep silent cry for the fate of their beloved land. They are stunned by the entire mumble-jumble political storm happening around them. They know their ancestors did something right by the fact of their independence from colonialism, but something is missing...

Being victim of a corrupt system from the past few decades by their own government blinds and robs them from the connection with the past when their grandfathers and grandfather's fathers fought shoulder to shoulder to free the nation from the oppression of colonialist dogs that robbed, raped, exploited, and enslaved the people.

Mr. Toer through his vivid depiction and powerful character projection from the missing era reconnects the children of Indonesia today with their own buried past to rekindle the fire of genuine nationalism. He drew the map to let them find their root and solidarity as a nation. Through drawing a picture of the past, Mr. Toer provides a guide for the nation's future. The tetralogy is a must-read for today's Indonesian generation while the social drama presented in his writing also provides a peek for all humanity to see its own strength, pitfalls, and potential for greatness. No readers will be left behind.

I am a child of that nation that selfishly used to be called Dutch East Indies and from the depth of my heart I would like to thank Mr. Toer to endure such barbarism in his life in order to pass on the knowledge that otherwise will be buried by hypocrisy and ignorance. Merdeka!
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