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Category Archive for 'Indonesia'

Aware that nearly all the history books about Indonesia begin with the discovery of the sea routes from Europe to Asia, thereby reflecting a western slant, a young teaching assistant in Jakarta in 1964 reflects the growing desire among Indonesians for a history of “their own.” Indonesia had been a Dutch colony for three and a half centuries, and had been occupied by the Japanese for much of World War II. Though long-time leader Dewi Sukarno declared the country’s independence–and became President–after the defeat of the Japanese, the Dutch remained a dominating presence in the country’s economy, to their own benefit far more than the Indonesians’. By 1964, when this novel opens, resentment against westerners is peaking. The Dutch are being arrested without warning and forcibly “repatriated,” the Chinese and Russians are exerting significant influence, Communism has become so popular that the president and the army fear a coup, and violence has become a way of life. “The police can kill anyone nowadays,” a teacher remarks, “and we just say, ‘Hey, there’s a dead body,’ without really knowing, or caring, who it was.”

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