Indonesia’s lost history


Leila S. Chudori
Translated by John McGlynn
495pp. Lontar. Paperback, £12.95.
978 602 9144 36 9
US: Deep Vellum. $16.95. 978 1 941920 10 7

Published: 3 February 2016

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A poster commemorating the victims of the 1965 massacre in Indonesia Photograph: Nobodycorp/Internationale Unlimited


Early in Leila Chudori’s Home, a seemingly minor exchange takes place between Dimas Suryo, an Indonesian activist and political exile in Paris, and Vivienne Deveraux, a young Frenchwoman. We are in the months following the student protests of May 1968, and Vivienne is raging against the “fucked up” state of her country. “To myself”, Dimas reflects:

“I thought that when it came to the state of a nation, she had no idea what ‘fucked up’ meant. Indonesia was rarely covered in the press, not even in leading news media such as Le Monde and Le Figaro. What the typical French person might know is that Indonesia is a country located somewhere in Southeast Asia not too far from Vietnam . . . . Vivienne and her equally agitated friends . . . wouldn’t have heard the names of Indonesia’s political activists who long predated theirs – such as Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir and Tan Malaka.” (more…)