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The Year of Living Dangerously av C. J. Koch
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The Year of Living Dangerously (utgåvan 1979)

av C. J. Koch

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
403747,193 (3.92)44
The charismatic god-king Sukarno has brought Indonesia to the edge of chaos - to an abortive revolution that will leave half a million dead. For the Western correspondents here, this gathering apocalypse is their story and their drug, while the sufferings of the Indonesian people are scarcely real: a shadow play. Working in the eye of the storm are television correspondent Guy Hamilton and his eccentric dwarf cameraman Billy Kwan. In Kwan's secret fantasy life, both Sukarno and Hamilton are heroes. But his heroes betray him, and Billy is driven to desperate action. As the Indonesian shadow play erupts into terrible reality, a complex personal tragedy of love, obsession and betrayal comes to its climax.… (mer)
Medlem:shortcipher
Titel:The Year of Living Dangerously
Författare:C. J. Koch
Info:Sphere (1979), Paperback
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek, Bookshelf E
Betyg:
Taggar:read

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The Year of Living Dangerously av Christopher J. Koch

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    The Lotus Eaters av Tatjana Soli (Anonym användare)
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We tend to mark the passage of time more in decades than years. Something about a larger number of days, months, and years gives us perspective. But some decades become lost. In the twentieth century, that is true, I think, for the 1920s and 1970s (and it may become true for the 1990s). The preceding and following decades tended to nibble into both the 1920s and 1970s. Like the 1920s and the aftermath of World War I, the first few years of the 1970s dealt with a lingering war, Vietnam, that had impacted not just the United States and Southeast Asia but the world at large. And like the 1920s again, with the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, the last year of the 1970s slipped back into a renewal of the Cold War leading to the ultimate demise of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia. The 1970s, it seems actually existed for but a small span of time, for three or four years from 1975 to 1979. And right in the middle of them appeared Christopher J. Koch's novel, The Year of Living Dangerously.

Koch seems to realize he has managed to place his narrative in a unique time. Part of that is brought about through the skillful use of a narrator, "Cookie" (Koch himself). Why skillful? Because the setting of the story is 1965 Indonesia, during the last year of Sukarno's dictatorship. To tell it solely from that viewpoint would have made it too immediate. And the story needs distance. After all, it is told in a semi-nostalgic tone, which is also loaded with the wisdom of age and its accompanying skepticism rather than youthful disillusionment and cynicism. The 13 year gap provides that, as does shifting the point of view of the story from Guy Hamilton, the Australian journalist at the middle of it all, to Hamilton's friend and confidante, Cookie. It is all of a time with its particular era, because the late 1970s, or the "true 1970s," themselves reflected that same exhaustion and skepticism towards anything other than the personal in life.

That is the real story of The Year of Living Dangerously, the exit of the West from Asia, the knowledge that especially Southeast Asia would always have an unknowable quality that Westerners could never understand. Ever. Hamilton depicts that perfectly. His still lingering schoolboy character is built on the echoes of empire and Kipling. His desire to escape the humdrum existence of suburban Australia reflected in his reading of W. Somerset Maugham. And his thirst for adventure and danger in the novels of Ian Fleming's James Bond. These are the books that dominate his bookshelves. And probably the James Bond movies should be included, too. After all, when Hamilton is menacingly held underwater at a mountain top resort pool by a Russian agent, Vera, it is awfully reminiscent of Bambi and Thumper's attack on Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever, which, by the way, just happened to be directed by Guy Hamilton.

At book's end, Koch's Guy Hamilton is ejected from Asia altogether. Left physically scared, he holds Asia as his true "home." But it can't be. As is also made clear towards the end, Hamilton belongs to a tradition rooted in the Aegean and flourishing in even further northern climes. Yes, there is clearly something of the dark and light of the Indonesian shadow puppet show in the clash between the two cultures. A hope for a merging of the Christian and the socialist, the Hindu and the Muslim, and perhaps East with West, as Hamilton's own puppet master, the dwarf, Billy Kwan, held out for. But that is a hope. I think it was Koch's hope. I am not sure, however, that his character, Hamilton, could ever really achieve that home any more than the rest of us Westerners living in Southeast Asia. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
Perhaps the best-known novel about Indonesia is “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1978), Christopher Koch’s story about a group of journalists in highly unstable Indonesia in 1965. Mr Koch has since been criticized from various sides, but his book remains equally chilling and entertaining at the same time. ( )
  theonearmedcrab | May 16, 2016 |
The heat, the sweltering thick of things puts you there. So intimately there. Such a volitile, scary time/place in history. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
The Year of Living Dangerousl does a wonderful job of capturing the heat, the desperation, and the danger. As the country spirals out of control, so does the life of Billy Kwan. As I started reading, I was concerned that the book would not be able to keep pace with the movie, which in my mind was extremely well acted and directed - yet, it did. This was a surprisingly excellent book - one that propelled me forward with no desire to set it down. Well done. ( )
  Griff | Jul 28, 2010 |
Set in Indonesia just before, during and just after the ouster of Indonesian leader Sukarno by a coup, the novel is narrated by a journalist named Cookie, whose role here seems to be as a father confessor to a handful of fellow journalists, some who have been in Indonesia for a while, and some, like Guy Hamilton, who have only just arrived. Guy is one of the central characters of the novel -- ambitious, looking to make a name for himself. Hamilton is taking the place of another Australian journalist who didn't quite make the grade & was sent home. Hamilton's sojourn in Indonesia starts off slowly until he meets another central character, Billy Kwan, a dwarf of Australian and Chinese parentage. Billy senses something in Hamilton, and jump starts his career as a journalist in Indonesia by tipping him to some major contacts. All around the journalists, who live & work in the glorious Hotel Indonesia (which is a totally separate and unreachable world for all but the most wealthy of natives), there is nothing but poverty and poor living conditions, which tend to worsen as Sukarno, idolized by Billy at the beginning of the story, takes money given in aid and uses it to buy his monuments & toys rather than help the people of Indonesia. The worsening plight of the natives under Sukarno is pointed out throughout the novel, as is the belief that journalists have a sort of moral obligation to report what's really going on with the people, so that perhaps they can help them. Billy Kwan, with his old Bell and Howell camera, becomes Guy's eyes because he can go several places where the foreign journalists can't , and Billy has his own agenda and his own ideas about the role of foreign correspondents in his troubled country, especially Hamilton, with whom he develops a bond that was not offered to the other journalists. Instead, the journalists are just hanging on in Indonesia, waiting for that one big story of a lifetime that just might further their own careers.

I definitely recommend this one to anyone who likes books about post-colonial Asia. I also think it's well worth reading by anyone in general. I saw the movie eons ago when it first came out, but just bought it to watch again so that I can refresh my memory now that I've read the novel.

A great book; I'm positive I'm missing out on other good ones by this author! Recommended ( )
3 rösta bcquinnsmom | Apr 4, 2008 |
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'Tartar prisoners in chains!
Of all the sorrows of all the prisoners mine is the hardest to bear!
Never in the world has so great a wrong fallen to the lot of man --
A Han heart and a Han tongue set in the body of a Turk.


-- PO CHU-I, 'The Prisoner' (translated by Arthur Whaley)
God dwells in the heart of all beings, Arjuna: thy
God dwells in thy heart. And his power of wonder 
moves all things -- puppets in a play of shadows -- 
whirling them onwards on the stream of time.  

-- The Bhagavad Gita (translated by Juan Mascaro)
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To my wife
and my brother
with love and gratitude
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There is no way, unless you have unusual self-control, of disguising the expression on your face when you first meet a dwarf.
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The charismatic god-king Sukarno has brought Indonesia to the edge of chaos - to an abortive revolution that will leave half a million dead. For the Western correspondents here, this gathering apocalypse is their story and their drug, while the sufferings of the Indonesian people are scarcely real: a shadow play. Working in the eye of the storm are television correspondent Guy Hamilton and his eccentric dwarf cameraman Billy Kwan. In Kwan's secret fantasy life, both Sukarno and Hamilton are heroes. But his heroes betray him, and Billy is driven to desperate action. As the Indonesian shadow play erupts into terrible reality, a complex personal tragedy of love, obsession and betrayal comes to its climax.

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