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This chapter develops the theme of Wright’s influence on Pramoedya by exploring a 1952 essay by Pramoedya on literature and the question of beauty. Using Wright as an example, Pramoedya suggests that a realist aesthetic grounded in contemporary social conditions demands a reevaluation of both Western and traditional Indonesian concepts of beauty in literature. Pramoedya identifies and praises a quality in Wright’s writing that he defines as “bitter realism,” a refusal to allow the reader to respond sentimentally to the depiction of suffering and oppression. Pramoedya’s admiration for Wright is part of an interest in African American culture and its expression of race-based oppression that also appears elsewhere in his writing at this time, most notably in the novelette Bukan Pasar Malam.

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