Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Toer : The Fugitive

Javanese youth being trained by Japanese military

One of Toer's earliest novels, written in 1947 while incarcerated by the Dutch, this is an existential depiction of the moral, political, mental, and physical  exhaustion of the Javanese on the very last day of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies.  Incredibly enough -- the author was 22 years old.  The translator notes that this narrative structure resembles Wayang - the traditional Javanese puppet theater.  It's highly stylized -- but it does give me the feeling of witnessing historic events.

Each chapter features a repetitive conversation between the Fugitive and one other person:

chapter one:  the Fugitive's prospective father-in-law invites him home to dinner and a change of clothing.  The Fugitive declines .

chapter two:  the Fugitive meets his father in a remote hut where both of them are taking refuge.  The father identifies him by voice as his son =. The Fugitive denies it, and says that the older man is sick.

chapter three:  The Fugitive meets one of his fellow fugitives who insists that the Traitor among them be killed.  The Fugitive disagrees - saying that the Traitor was just a heartbroken lover who could be useful in the struggle for independence after the Japanese left.

chapter four:  The Traitor arrests the Fugitive's prospective father-in-law and expresses his contempt for the older man. Then the Traitor goes to arrest the Fugitive's fiancĂ© and begs her to trust him. The Japanese officer in charge of the local militia arrives. He threatens both father and daughter if they don't help him catch the Fugitive -- but then there is a disturbance in the street where the news of the Japanese surrender to America has just been announced - simultaneous with the capture of the Fugitive and two of his companions.


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