is a great book, beautifully and intelligently written. The subject
matter – Indonesia in 1965 – is close enough to our own time for
many readers to remember the upheavals and the violence as President
Sukarno sought to retain power while
to remain straddled on the fence between the Left and Right factions of the government.
the Australian journalist
at the centre of the novel, becomes slowly
into the strange world of
Billy Kwan, a dwarf who is also Hamilton's photographer. Hamilton,
together with other international journalists, meet regularly at the
Wayang Bar – wayang being a Javanese word for a
shadow puppets – to
discuss the chaos that is inevitable. The
wayang puppets become an important symbol as the situation, already
dire at the beginning of the year, descends into turmoil where no one
really knows what is happening or what is likely to happen.
characterization is extremely good, and Billy Kwan, for one, lives on
in our memory even after we have reached the last page and closed the
book. The many glimpses of Indonesian life – the
slums, the people, the beliefs, the smells – join
together to produce an amazing backdrop to an amazing and
the end, there is no good or bad, nothing is clear cut. As Koch
West asks for clear conclusions, final judgements. A philosophy must
be correct or incorrect, a man good or bad… '
The Year of Living Dangerously was made into a film by Peter Weir in 1982, with Mel Gibson starring as Hamilton.
The photo from the film is from alchetron.com