Bari Weiss of the Wall Street Journal reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Anyone who has had a friend honeymoon in Bali has surely heard them gush about the Indonesian island’s stunning beaches, killer waves, verdant rice terraces and exotic fruit.
But Bali is far from Indonesia’s only attraction—and definitely not its most fascinating.
Elizabeth Pasani, a journalist and epidemiologist, took off a year of her life to explore this country and to figure out what binds its more than 240 million inhabitants together.
“I only had one rule,” she writes, “Just say yes.”
Thus in “Indonesia Etc.,” we hike and boat and ride and fly alongside Pasani, a fearless traveler who trekked her way through some of Indonesia’s 13,500 islands, several of which are too small to even appear on a world map. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country on Earth. Its citizens speak more than 700 different languages, and the country’s capital, Jakarta, tweets more than any other city on earth. Yet despite its size and diversity, as an Indonesian entrepreneur remarks to the author, Indonesia is arguably the “the most invisible country in the world.”
Pasani makes Indonesian’s diverse ethnicities, languages, religions and rituals visible—even the strange ones. In the island of Sumba, a young man invites the author to meet his grandmother. When they arrive at his house, Pasani is led to bag of dirty laundry on a bamboo chair. The man delicately unties the bag and reveals the corpse of his grandmother, who had died the previous day and will spend the next four receiving guests before she moves on into the next world.
“I began to feel this country was one giant Bad Boyfriend,” Pasini writes. “It tickles the senses ...prompts laughter, produces that warm fuzzy feeling that goes with familiarity and slightly embarrassing shared intimacies. Then it forgets important anniversaries, insults friends, and tells endless low-grade lies. Just when you think you are really getting to know it, it reveals some hidden secret, or reinvents itself completely. However much you sometimes want to slap him, you always want people to admire this wild and exotic beast, to wish they knew him better.
To learn more about Indonesia, save yourself the $1500 airfare and pick up a copy of this book.