Indonesian Destinies

Overview

"How can such a gentle people as we are be so murderous?" a prominent Indonesian asks. That question--and the mysteries of the archipelago's vast contradictions--haunt Theodore Friend's remarkable work, a narrative of Indonesia during the last half century, from the postwar revolution against Dutch imperialism to the unrest of today. Part history, part meditation on a place and a past observed firsthand, Indonesian Destinies penetrates events that gave birth to the world's fourth largest nation and assesses the ...

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Overview

"How can such a gentle people as we are be so murderous?" a prominent Indonesian asks. That question--and the mysteries of the archipelago's vast contradictions--haunt Theodore Friend's remarkable work, a narrative of Indonesia during the last half century, from the postwar revolution against Dutch imperialism to the unrest of today. Part history, part meditation on a place and a past observed firsthand, Indonesian Destinies penetrates events that gave birth to the world's fourth largest nation and assesses the continuing dangers that threaten to tear it apart.

Friend reveals Sukarno's character through wartime collaboration with Japan, and Suharto's through the mass murder of communists that brought him to power for thirty-two years. He guides our understanding of the tolerant forms of Islam prevailing among the largest Muslim population in the world, and shows growing tensions generated by international terrorism. Drawing on a deep knowledge of the country's cultures, its leaders, and its ordinary people, Friend gives a human face and a sense of immediacy to the self-inflicted failures and immeasurable tragedies that cast a shadow over Indonesia's past and future. A clear and compelling passion shines through this richly illustrated work. Rarely have narrative history and personal historical witness been so seamlessly joined.

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Editorial Reviews

The Economist
An engaging romp through the 54 years of Indonesia's existence, its scope is a broad one. Part personal memoir, part history, part economic treatise, it makes for a useful (and bang up-to-date) introduction to the unknown archipelago, particularly valuable in light of the absence of much in the way of competition.
New York Times

Mr. Friend...succeeds in making Indonesia comprehensible because he uses a wealth of contemporary Indonesian contacts to paint a lively historical, sociological, anthropological and at times gossipy portrait of the country...For those who know little about Indonesia and for those who know much, this is a captivating rendition.
— Jane Perlez

Jakarta Post

For foreigners and Indonesians alike, Theodore Friend's book is a rich informative source to better understand the country's post-colonial history. This scholarly work has an engaging, often reflective narrative style that is always full of details from numerous interviews conducted since the writer first started visiting the country, sometime in 1967-1968.
— Mohammad Sadli

Washington Times

This is an outstanding general history of Indonesia over the four and a half decades since its troubled independence, won after 300 years of Dutch colonial rule. But it is also a reliable, insightful guide to the dynamics of current Indonesian politics, and the troubled but principled and (so far) surprisingly robust presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri...[Friend] enjoyed exceptional access to the nation's key leaders during the dramatic transition to democracy in 1998-2000. His consequent blending of scholarship and hands-on direct experience informs every page of this book.
— Martin Sieff

Wall Street Journal

[Friend] combines scholarly analysis with vivid personal recollections—of both important political players and ordinary people. The result is a book of passionate engagement and first-rate scholarship.
— Michael J. Ybarra

Foreign Affairs
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, is extraordinarily complex, and few books give so complete and vivid an introduction as does this one. Friend, a masterly political scientist, economist, and anthropologist and an insightful travelogue observer, has met most of the major actors who have shaped Indonesia since its independence and is thus able to bring them to life...[He leaves] the reader with an informed understanding of contemporary developments in this important but distant country.
Times Higher Education Supplement

Indonesian Destinies offers a sustained treatment of Indonesian history and society that rivals Adam Schwartz's A Nation in Waiting as the most comprehensive overview of political change in the country from independence to the present day. It is appealingly modest in tone, simultaneously wideranging and attentive to detail, and commendably generous towards other Indonesia specialists, especially junior scholars. The book's historical narrative is peppered with regular digressions on important topics and with personal anecdotes from Friend's research and travels in Indonesia over many decades.
— John Sidel

Times Literary Supplement

Theodore Friend, the former president of Swarthmore College and a longtime observer of and participant in South-East Asian affairs, [takes] a wide, historical view in his thoughtful and trustworthy account of Indonesia from its creation out of the debris of a Dutch colonial past...Because he seems to have read everything, been nearly everywhere and met just about everyone, Friend proves himself to be a worthy guide through the hopes and tragedies of Indonesia's first fifty-odd years.
— Margaret Scott

Finance and Development

Theodore Friend, a renowned scholar of Southeast Asian countries, has written a balanced, fascinating, and richly illustrated book about Indonesia. He records the views of presidents and generals, but he also dwells 'on several individual Indonesians of no special prominence because they illustrate ordinary lives with grace under pressure, and because I like them.' The result of this combination of personal anecdote and scholarly expertise is a kaleidoscopic view of the successes and failures of Indonesia: 'sometimes rarified aromas; too often, bloody reek.
— Vasuki Shastry

Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies

Theodore Friend has written a most engaging book about Indonesia, looking back over the first 50 years of Indonesian history, profiling many of the people whom he met in the course of researching the subject, and disarming the reader with frankly stated opinions about any number of topics that come up along the way. This is like no other book on Indonesia, far more scholarly than the snapshots of journalists and far more revealing of the author's open personality than most dissertations by academics. It is a book to be savored by readers who already know Indonesia well and to be read with profit by any who hope to join their company. Friend is a genial guide…a consummate reporter…and an indefatigable gatherer of the accounts of others…Friend writes with clarity and wit.
— John Bresnan

Clifford Geertz
A major work based on an incomparable first-person experience of a stunningly wide range of critical events and major personalities. Friend seems to have known everyone and been everywhere.
New York Times - Jane Perlez
Mr. Friend...succeeds in making Indonesia comprehensible because he uses a wealth of contemporary Indonesian contacts to paint a lively historical, sociological, anthropological and at times gossipy portrait of the country...For those who know little about Indonesia and for those who know much, this is a captivating rendition.
Jakarta Post - Mohammad Sadli
For foreigners and Indonesians alike, Theodore Friend's book is a rich informative source to better understand the country's post-colonial history. This scholarly work has an engaging, often reflective narrative style that is always full of details from numerous interviews conducted since the writer first started visiting the country, sometime in 1967-1968.
Washington Times - Martin Sieff
This is an outstanding general history of Indonesia over the four and a half decades since its troubled independence, won after 300 years of Dutch colonial rule. But it is also a reliable, insightful guide to the dynamics of current Indonesian politics, and the troubled but principled and (so far) surprisingly robust presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri...[Friend] enjoyed exceptional access to the nation's key leaders during the dramatic transition to democracy in 1998-2000. His consequent blending of scholarship and hands-on direct experience informs every page of this book.
Wall Street Journal - Michael J. Ybarra
[Friend] combines scholarly analysis with vivid personal recollections--of both important political players and ordinary people. The result is a book of passionate engagement and first-rate scholarship.
Times Higher Education Supplement - John Sidel
Indonesian Destinies offers a sustained treatment of Indonesian history and society that rivals Adam Schwartz's A Nation in Waiting as the most comprehensive overview of political change in the country from independence to the present day. It is appealingly modest in tone, simultaneously wideranging and attentive to detail, and commendably generous towards other Indonesia specialists, especially junior scholars. The book's historical narrative is peppered with regular digressions on important topics and with personal anecdotes from Friend's research and travels in Indonesia over many decades.
Times Literary Supplement - Margaret Scott
Theodore Friend, the former president of Swarthmore College and a longtime observer of and participant in South-East Asian affairs, [takes] a wide, historical view in his thoughtful and trustworthy account of Indonesia from its creation out of the debris of a Dutch colonial past...Because he seems to have read everything, been nearly everywhere and met just about everyone, Friend proves himself to be a worthy guide through the hopes and tragedies of Indonesia's first fifty-odd years.
Finance and Development - Vasuki Shastry
Theodore Friend, a renowned scholar of Southeast Asian countries, has written a balanced, fascinating, and richly illustrated book about Indonesia. He records the views of presidents and generals, but he also dwells 'on several individual Indonesians of no special prominence because they illustrate ordinary lives with grace under pressure, and because I like them.' The result of this combination of personal anecdote and scholarly expertise is a kaleidoscopic view of the successes and failures of Indonesia: 'sometimes rarified aromas; too often, bloody reek.
Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies - John Bresnan
Theodore Friend has written a most engaging book about Indonesia, looking back over the first 50 years of Indonesian history, profiling many of the people whom he met in the course of researching the subject, and disarming the reader with frankly stated opinions about any number of topics that come up along the way. This is like no other book on Indonesia, far more scholarly than the snapshots of journalists and far more revealing of the author's open personality than most dissertations by academics. It is a book to be savored by readers who already know Indonesia well and to be read with profit by any who hope to join their company. Friend is a genial guide…a consummate reporter…and an indefatigable gatherer of the accounts of others…Friend writes with clarity and wit.
Foreign Affairs
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, is extraordinarily complex, and few books give so complete and vivid an introduction as does this one. Friend, a masterly political scientist, economist, and anthropologist and an insightful travelogue observer, has met most of the major actors who have shaped Indonesia since its independence and is thus able to bring them to life. We learn, for example, that Sukarno had a remarkable command of English, demonstrated when he quipped about corruption under his administration, "Britannia rules the waves, but Indonesia waives the rules." Friend treats with great objectivity the bloodbath — part settling of old scores and ethnic hatreds, part attack on Communists — that brought Suharto to power in 1966. He also details the end of the Suharto era and the political infighting and economic volatility that has followed — leaving the reader with an informed understanding of contemporary developments in this important but distant country.
Library Journal
Of the major countries in Asia, Indonesia is the least known to Americans, and Friend, a distinguished educator and scholar, hopes to provide a sense of that country's history over the past half century for nonspecialists. He combines the knowledge of a well-connected insider with personal anecdotes gleaned from his travels to points scattered across this vast archipelago. Unfortunately, the result is disappointing-the book lacks cohesion, is poorly organized, and, in trying to cover everything of consequence, achieves far less than a more conventional approach might have. Too many of Friend's personal anecdotes are vapid and pointless, while his persona intrudes on the historical narrative rather than enriching it. Yet, because of his high-level informants, it is still valuable to readers who are already somewhat familiar with Indonesian history. For instance, his portrait of General Suharto, who ruled from 1966 to 1998, as a modern Javanese prince who presided over a thoroughly corrupted society is devastating. Readers interested in an introduction to the volatile and complex realities of modern Indonesia had better start elsewhere. An optional purchase.-Steven I. Levine, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674018341
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/24/2005
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodore Friend, former President of Swarthmore College, and President Emeritus of Eisenhower Fellowships, is now a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia. He was awarded the Bancroft Prize for his book on Philippine-American history, Between Two Empires. His other books include The Blue-Eyed Enemy and Family Laundry, a novel.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Largest Muslim Nation

Part I Sukarno

1. Indonesia, the Devouring Nurturer

2. Guided Chaos

3. Ego, Voice, Vertigo

4. Mass Murder

Part II Suharto

5. The Smile of Progress

6. The New Majapahit Empire

7. The Sound of Silence

8. The Last Years of Living Securely

9. Behind, Beyond, Beneath the Power Structure

10. Indonesia Burning

Part III Succession

11. Forcing Out Suharto

12. Stroke

13. New Leaders, New Islam

14. Election 1999: Reds, Greens, Blues, Yellows

15. East Timor

16. Anarcho-Democracy

Epilogue: Sukarno's Daughter in the Palace

Chronology

Sources

Notes

Glossary

Index

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