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10-08-2015, 23:13

Cultural Trends

In most countries in Southeast Asia, writers, artists, and composers are attempting to synthesize international styles and themes with local tradition and experience. The novel has become increasingly popular as writers seek to find the best medium to encapsulate the dramatic changes that have taken place in the region in recent decades. The best-known writer in postwar Indonesia—at least to readers abroad—is Pramoedya Toer. Born in 1925 in eastern Java, he joined the Indonesian nationalist movement in his early twenties. Arrested in 1965 on the charge of being a Communist, he spent the next fourteen years in prison. While incarcerated, he began writing his four-volume Buru Quartet, which recounts in fictional form the story of the struggle of the Indonesian people for freedom from colonial rule and the autocratic regimes of the independence period. Among the most talented of contemporary Vietnamese novelists is Duong Thu Huong (b. 1947). A member of the Vietnamese Communist Party who served on the front lines during the Sino-Vietnamese war in 1979, she later became outspoken in her criticism of the party’s failure to carry out democratic reforms and was briefly imprisoned in 1991. Undaunted by official pressure, she has written several novels that express the horrors experienced by guerrilla fighters during the Vietnam War and the cruel injustices perpetrated by the regime in the cause of building socialism. Some popular musical styles have evolved out of Indonesia’s growing familiarity with the West. Like young musicians in Africa, the rock group Slank, for example, uses music to attack corruption and social inequality. Shocked at the recent violent acts committed by Islamic fundamentalists, such as the 2002 bombing of a nightclub in Bali, the group promotes a nonviolent message of hope and tolerance for Indonesia’s diverse ethnic and religious groups.