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SOESILO TOER: THE GUARDIAN

Blora is known as the birthplace of renowned author Pramoedya Ananta Toer. In the town, he and his siblings dreamed about getting the Indonesian society to love writing. Now, there is only one left among the brothers, Soesilo Toer, to continue the dream. Although he had to scavenge garbage and raise goats and chicken to make ends meet, he is the guardian of the Toer brothers’ dream.

Soesilo is the seventh of nine children of Mastoer and Saidah, a younger brother of Pramoedya Ananta Toer. He is also the only surviving literature personality of the Toer family after the passing of his three brothers Pram, Prawito, and Koesalah Toer.

He is now 81 years old, but still full of spirit as he spoke about the past. His mind is as clear as ever as he remembered dates, places, streets, and details of historical events affecting his family and nation.

“Pram, my brother, won because he wrote 50 books, while I wrote only 20. But I also won over him because I’m still alive at 81,” Soesilo opened the morning’s conversation, in early July.

Soesilo lives with his wife Suratiyem (51) and son Beni Santoso (27) in the house he inherited from his parents at Jalan Sumbawa no. 40, Blora, Central Java. The house looked as aged as its inhabitants, with shabby walls and torn wooden roof.

The house is indeed old, a silent witness of the Toers’ history. His parents built the house right after the birth of Pram on 1925, and eight younger siblings were born there, including Soesilo. During the 1965 conflicts, the house was nearly burned down.

The house was also where the Toer brothers dreamed to build a reading room for Blora. Unfortunately, before the dream come true, his brothers passed away. Therefore, in order to keep the dream alive, Soesilo converted the kitchen next to the main building into a library.

He put his collection of books in the 70 meters square room, with portraits of Pram and other figures adorning the walls. The library is named after Soesilo’s illustrious brother: Perpustakaan Pramoedya Ananta Toer Anak Semua Bangsa (Pataba).

The library now houses more than 5.000 titles. Ever since it began operations, the library had helped students researching Pramoedya’s works as it stores almost all of his works, as well as books that used to belong to him.

Soesilo stated that he would do anything to preserve and maintain Pram’s childhood house and Perpustakaan Pataba. Although at present he is only assisted by his son Ben to manage the library, he wants to keep the Toer brothers’ dream, of getting Indonesian society to love writing, alive.

(Source: Adapted from Beritagar and Pontianak Post)

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