Book Review: Arok Dedes by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

November 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Arok DedesArok Dedes by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Arok is not portrayed completely in this novel. Pram avoids intimacy with Arok’s character writing, as opposed to Dedes. We get a complete picture of Dedes a human being with feelings, lust, even her desire and satisfaction of power, and her fear and sadness of losing it to Arok. On the other hand, Arok’s depiction is only of how he tried to obtain control and power, never without internal motive, but not completely without.

The novel is written in a way that readers will be absorbed in history. In the end I just wanted to know what happened next. But this is as far as Pram would ever tell the story. The book is funny and contemplative, and what I like is that some things are described quite explicitly, like how Kebo Ijo became the one person that everyone used for their own purpose (because he’s stupid, easily lured by promises of power and weak in character).

There’s repeated message of how people of different religion should respect each other, that everyone has their own right to worship whomever they want (in this case, they are Buddhist, and either Shiva or Wishnu worshipper), and that common people, the lowest in caste has the right to be a leader in the government.

It’s refreshing to see how lust for power is depicted so explicitly in this book. It is today’s reality reflected in a novel set in the 13th century Java.

-RN

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