One of Indonesia's most prominent authors, Toer spent most of his adult life in prison; his works have frequently been banned by the government. Toer's first novel, The Fugitive (1950), was written during his internment by the Dutch. Toer became a leading figure in the Marxist literary group Lekra and was again incarcerated after the 1965 overthrow of Sukarno, joining thousands of other left-wing artists on the prison island of Buru. The author of over 30 works of fiction and nonfiction, Toer is best known for his Buru tetralogy, which traces the birth of nationalism in Indonesia. Most of the work was composed as narration to fellow prisoners, then later recorded and published after Toer's release in 1979. Although the events of the tetralogy take place in the past, they must be understood in the context of his experiences at Buru. In 1988 Toer received the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award.