Reading More About Indonesia

Nov 9th, 2009, in Society, by

Indonesia ReaderA review of “The Indonesia Reader”, an anthology of Indonesian history, culture and politics.

This new anthology about Indonesia is a welcome addition to books (like “Culture Shock: Jakarta“) for expats and others who want to improve their knowledge of the archipelago’s history, culture and politics.

The editors have compiled a very wide range of articles and authors, including the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former President Soeharto, Pramoedya Ananta Toer and sporadically controversial Metro TV journalist Desi Anwar.

SBY Soeharto Pramoedya Ananta Toer Desi Anwar

A star studded line-up of authors

Like a long biography, (as the stories are published in chronological order) some of the earlier sections might be a bit heavy and hard going for the casual reader. As such, it is tempting to read the book from finish to start. However, there are several rare articles and some which are published in English for the first time, so there are a number of pleasant surprises, including:

Alfred Russel Wallace

Wallace Line


  • an early article by Alfred Wallace, British naturalist and later the creator of the Wallace Line
  • a story of the 1883 eruption of Krakatau by a Dutch survivor, RA Van Sandick.
  • a history of the very slow Dutch conquest (starting in 1873 and taking at least 30 years) of Aceh, an interesting pre-cursor to later events.

Later sections cover a number of comtemporary subjects including: Indonesian reactions to Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, separatist violence in Ambon, anti-Western terrorism via an interview with Bali bomber Imam Samudera and the new pornography bill.

One man who possibly doesn’t support the Pornography Bill

There are also some rare personal accounts of the 1965-1967 anti-communist massacres and being a “comfort woman” (i.e. sex slave) to Japanese soldiers during World War 2.

I would like to say that it is available at all good bookstores, but to my knowledge you cannot buy it within Indonesia. I got my copy in Australia. It doesn’t retail at all good bookstores for $US25.95; you can buy it on Amazon here or direct from the publisher here.

8 Comments on “Reading More About Indonesia”

  1. David says:

    On Amazon the book’s sales rank was at #100,000 odd a few days ago although now it seems to have plummeted to about #500,000, so I was going to say that it was doing surprisingly ok for a book about Indonesia but now that seems redundant. It does sound interesting though and once f*cking amazon unblock my account I will get hold of a copy.

  2. Adam says:

    So Patung, what is the name of this book and is it sold only on-line?



  3. Burung Koel says:

    Just checked – it’s not available in Borders. Guess it has to be Amazon, unless anyone’s seen it in Periplus?

  4. Chris says:

    Hi Adam,

    Here are the book’s details from the publisher’s website :

    Editors: Tineke Hellwig, Eric Tagliacozzo
    Title: The Indonesia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
    ISBN: 13 978-0-8223-4424-7
    488 pages, including 46 photos, 2 tables, 1 map, 11 figures

  5. David says:

    Hi Adam, if you click the links in the ‘recent comments’ bit on the front page you get delivered to this page, which is a comments page minus the actual article, so you need to view the article which is at 🙂

    Amazon finally unblocked my account after three weeks, just today….

  6. Odinius says:

    Amazon is the best bet, I’d say. I’ve got a copy. Tagliacozzo did a pretty good job compiling it…

  7. madrotter says:

    hmmmh, looks like an interesting read.. right now i’m knee deep in “country of origin” written by E. Du Perron, one of those books out of the Periplus series, what a beautiful book!!! and I got my hands on a copy of that “koelie” book by Madelon Szekely-Lulofs, another writer i love to read…

    brought a bunch of books from europe too but there’s probably not too many science fiction readers here on this forum…

  8. Daniel says:

    kalo dibaca kayanya capek tapi saat dibaca asyik juga yah???

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