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In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos Kindle Edition
In the last years of the twentieth century, foreign correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry found himself in the vast island nation of Indonesia, one of the most alluring, mysterious, and violent countries in the world. For thirty-two years, it had been paralyzed by the grip of the dictator and mystic General Suharto, but now the age of Suharto was coming to an end. Would freedom prevail, or was the “time of madness” predicted centuries before now at hand?
On the island of Borneo, tribesmen embarked on a rampage of headhunting and cannibalism. Vast jungles burned uncontrollably; money lost its value; there were plane crashes and volcanic eruptions. Then, after Suharto’s tumultuous fall, came the vote on East Timor’s independence from Indonesia. And it was here, trapped in the besieged compound of the United Nations, that Richard reached his own breaking point.
A book of hair-raising immediacy and psychological unravelling, In the Time of Madness is an accomplishment in the great tradition of Conrad, Orwell, and Ryszard Kapuściński.
“[Parry’s] elegant, understated prose reserves a bubble of sanity amid the madness; he’s particularly adept at capturing the moments when history is about to be made.” —Bryan Walsh, Time Asia
“Freedom has its darker side. . . . You could not hope for a better guide to the strange and terrible transformation that befell Indonesia in 1998 than Richard Lloyd Parry. . . . Fills a crucial space on the bookshelves.” —The Economist
“Honest, reflective and self-critical . . . One of the most incisive portraits of moral failure by the so-called ‘international community’ which this author has had occasion to read.” —John T. Sidel, The Times (London)
“Shocking . . . Riveting . . . Truly sobering.” —Siobhan Murphy, Metro Life (London)
“This is a fine book, the best I’ve read on the implosion of human decency that took place in Indonesia as the New Order of President Suharto collapsed in the late 1990s. . . . A bold and beautifully written piece of reporting.” —John Sweeney, Literary Review (London)
“[A] boldly reported, introspective account . . . Clipped, vivid, and honest.” —Publishers Weekly
“The best of its kind to have emerged from the chaos that surrounded the 1998 end of [General] Suharto’s rule. . . . A courageously candid account.” —Shawn Donnan, FT Magazine (London)
About the Author
- ASIN : B0097CWJHY
- Publisher : Grove Press (December 1, 2007)
- Publication date : December 1, 2007
- Language : English
- File size : 1273 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 340 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 0802118089
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #740,941 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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And during this dark period of time the author, Richard Lloyd Parry, travelled around the country as a foreign correspondent and obtains his story directly from the people who suffered from the chaotic mess, as well as experienced it directly himself. And right from the beginning it is immediately clear that Parry has a flair of writing in an exquisitely descriptive manner, which is key for painting the big picture.
First, his bone-chilling report on the Dayak-Madura conflict in West Kalimantan, where he witnessed first hand the level of violence so eerie it made the content of that Joshua Oppenheimer documentary “Jagal” arguably looks like child play. Parry’s coverage gives the feel of real tension like in the movie Hotel Rwanda about the genocide, but with an added twist of black magic, trance, cannibalism, and beast-style massacre. In fact there are many instances when I had to stop reading and gasp to myself holy crap what did I just read? One of them was a very tense point where Parry himself was just one bite away from almost forced to engage in cannibalism.
Second, as the effect of the economic crisis started to creep into society Parry found himself walking in the streets of Yogyakarta and Jakarta, covering the mass student protests against the crisis including the one in Trisakti that culminated in the shooting of the students by the police and triggered a massive riot the day after. Parry then continues with seemingly almost minute-by-minute account of the gripping sequences that eventually lead to the end of the 32 years of New Order.
And third, in the aftermath of the resignation of Suharto, Parry went deep into the jungle in East Timor to be embedded with the guerrilla fighters, and provides the story of the independence movement straight from the freedom fighters’ point of view.
In between the reporting Parry inserted vital backstories to provide us with the bigger context, such as the cultural dynamics in Kalimantan, the effects of the 1997 economic crisis as the mother of all triggers, Indonesia’s political map, an excellent short biography of Suharto (with plenty of fresh information that I, an Indonesian growing up during the dictatorship, had never heard of before), as well as background descriptions of the inner workings of the mystics in Java, complete with all the Javanese prophecies and the few stories of wayang which curiously came to be reflected in real life.
True to Indonesia’s nature, history is never clear and blurry at best. Even the account of what really happened in 1965 coup that gave rise to Suharto has never really been resolved even today in 2021. Yes, they say history is written by the victors, and thus it does makes one think that with the New Order’s dark truths still concealed, was the “regime change” in 1998 really occur or the same regime is still pretty much in control today only with different clothing since the resignation of Suharto?
Naturally, any historical analysis on Indonesia during this period of time are all asking the same questions. Was it really a regime change? Who gave the command to shoot the students? Was the riot and the looting and the rape orchestrated? Why Suharto never went to trial? This is where the book plays its enlightenment role, where Parry addresses these questions with commanding certainty and convincingly pointing to very solid arguments and even proofs. It’ll all make perfect sense once you read the book.
What really happened in East Timor? What legacy has Suharto left the nation? Is it true there was cannibalism in Kalimantan, against the Madurese? Reader gets the full scoop on these incidents, in a fast-moving, eyewitness-style reportage. Lloyd Parry does his best to be the cool-headed journalist going after the facts, but as he witnesses more and more inhumanity, we see his own humanity struggling to shine through the reports. His writing is crisp and to the point, and so his moments of shock and horror are written without embellishment.
These were times of madness for Indonesia, but also for anyone who had to witness it. So that would include the author. He introduces the book with a passage about nightmares in a quiet, safe bungalow in Bali. What, reader wonders, has he seen?
Format is a bit like each chapter being a good, thorough news magazine essay. Unfortunately, his publisher probably wanted to grab readers with some really sensational and gruesome stuff and so graphic bits about massacres and cannibalism make up the first chapter, even though it is out of sequence with the timeline of other events he writes about for this book. Once I made my way out of that dark jungle, I quite enjoyed the book, and I would call this the best read that really sums up what's been happening to Indonesia since the mid 90's.
People out of the line of fire depend on our journalists to report on what's happening in the trouble spots of the world. I remain grateful to RLP for his courage, tenacity, and excellent writing. And I thank him for retaining his humanity and his concern for justice and simple goodness. I'd like to see more reporters like him, and more editors who let their reporters be themselves.
Interestingly, the recent documentary film The Act of Killing (about men who assassinated enemies of the state in the 60's) depends to a large degree on the element of the personal viewpoint. In the west, there's growing concern and fascination with Indonesia's odd political realm. Anyone who's seen that film and been intrigued with THAT madness, can now pick up In The Time of Madness and get more insight on how this country has been dealing with its declared or imagined enemies.