The Jakarta Post
Indonesian literary communities went into mourning on Sunday morning when writer and historian JJ Rizal announced news of the death of one of the country's great men of letters, Sitor Situmorang.
'I was very close with Sitor and I feel really sad. He was the last great man of letters from Generation '45,' said Rizal as quoted by Antara news agency on Sunday.
Sitor gained popularity among poem lovers in Indonesia through his work entitled 'Malam Lebaran' (Lebaran Eve).
Born in Harianboho, North Tapanuli, North Sumatra, on Oct. 2, 1923, Sitor died aged 91 at his house in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, on Sunday.
Rizal said Sitor was an important figure in Indonesian culture thanks to his thoughts and works that represented the intellectuals and writers of his generation.
He said that unlike other men of letters from the so-called Generation of 1945, Sitor had never treated the West and East too differently.
As a writer who was born in a revolutionary era, Sitor was a person who was fully aware that literature could not be separated from politics or matters pertaining to national problems.
'He did not experience halfheartedness,' said Rizal.
Rizal, who had long studied Sitor's works and wrote six books from his research on the poet's oeuvre, said it was impossible to exclude the names of two great Indonesian writers ' Sitor and Pramoedya Ananta Toer ' in discussing Indonesian culture.
Rizal deplored the politics of the Indonesian government, especially during the New Order era, which purportedly erased the names of a number of intellectuals and writers, including Sitor, from textbooks because they were considered leftist.
Sitor once worked as a journalist for various daily newspapers in Sumatra. He also worked as a civil servant for the culture division at the former education and culture department (now the Culture and Elementary and Secondary Education Ministry). He was appointed as a Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPRS) member representing Indonesian artists.
Sitor was held as a political prisoner of the New Order government from 1967 to 1974.
Fellow writer Martin Aleida said Sitor represented a milestone in the journey of Indonesian politics and literature. As reflected in his work, he said Sitor was faithful and sincere in defending his country and nation. (ebf)
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