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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...

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