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Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation Hardcover – 5 Jun 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Granta (5 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847086543
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847086549
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

It's hard to imagine the energy, tenacity and intimate background knowledge needed to write this book. Luckily, Elizabeth Pisani has these qualities in droves. Read it, even if you don't think you're interested in Indonesia it s inspiring on so many levels, from the boundless curiosity and warmth of the author to the country s spectacular miracle of geo-political confidence and experimentation. --Emma Larkin, author of Everything is Broken and Secret Histories"

'Indonesia is a pretty bewildering area to wrangle comprehensively into one book, but Elizabeth Pisani does a great job. The former foreign correspondent's extensive travels through her old patch find her dealing with the more colourful aspects of modern Indonesia and the corruption that blights it' --Wanderlust

'Sharp, enjoyable and well-organised... Pisani writes well and has an outsider's eye for the extraordinary and the idiosyncratic' --Literary Review

'This book, part travelogue and part history, is a lively condensation of some of her encounters with a country that is as disparate in its politics as it is in its geography and people' --'NS Recommends', New Statesman

'Engaging... Pisani is an erudite and adventurous travelling companion. This is a humane, intelligent travelogue that makes an initially daunting subject come gloriously alive' --Sunday Business Post

'An affectionate portrait of a diverse, dynamic and eccentric country' --'Top Summer Reads', Financial Times

'Meticulous, colourful and often funny... Indonesia Etc. gives a vivid sense of what Indonesia feels, smells, and tastes like. Pisani is relentlessly curious and her ability to pitch up anywhere and grasp the essence of the place is truly impressive. For anyone about to visit the place, her book is an essential companion' --Guardian

'Indonesia Etc is an absorbing 13,000-mile ramble around this sprawling, little-known archipelago' --Independent

'Accessible and entertaining… The characters that populate Indonesia Etc are diverse and vividly described. Certain themes - Indonesian identity; corruption - are common themes, but Pisani examines them sensitively and from multiple angles' --Geographical Magazine

'Indonesia Etc is an absorbing 13,000-mile ramble around this sprawling, little-known archipelago' --Independent

'A warm and punchy travelogue' --'Travel book of the year', The Times

'A richly entertaining account' --'Book of the year', Economist

'Pisani's perceptiveness is as honed as her wit is wise' --Travel book of the year chosen by Tom Adair, Scotsman

'A richly entertaining account' --'Book of the year', Economist

About the Author

ELIZABETH PISANI studied Chinese at Oxford before working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters, the Economist and the Asia Times. She has an MSc in Medical Demography and a PHD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology. She is the author of The Wisdom of Whores (Granta, 2008).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MLA VINE VOICE on 9 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Indonesia etc is a fabulous travelogue covering Indonesia in nearly 400 hardback pages. It is an expertly written tale by former Reuters correspondent Elizabeth Pisani taking in an array of people, places, and cultures across the remarkably diverse country that is Indonesia. Pisani's writing style is effortlessly easy to read making this such an accessible introduction to a strange land. It is required reading for anyone with an interest in Indonesia.

Pisani introduces the reader to a range of fascinating issues affecting Indonesia by telling each story through encounters in a particular location. The idea of Indonesia as a nation is challenged in some of the outer islands comprising part of the east of the country for instance where a radically different people live in circumstances so different from metropolitan Jakarta.

It is the people who stand out most from this tour of the country. The generosity of spirit in almost all the locations Pisani finds herself in is really heartwarming to read about. Pisani herself seems quite capable of taking advantage of such generosity, talking her way into all kinds of weird and often-times wonderful situations. As a travelogue it is fascinating to read of Pisani's adventure, taking boats without any real sense of direction for instance. The waiting around for things to happen is something any visitor to Indonesia will be familiar with. Taking that further to see the relaxed attitude as almost spiritual is quite intriguing. There is almost a sense Pisani has accrued a set of anecdotal evidence to support the idea that some peoples are just more industrious than others.

Weaving a narrative around such a disparate set of peoples is a remarkable skill. Pisani's ability as a writer is tremendous.
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Format: Hardcover
different groups are essentially living at different points in human history, all at the same time.’

Indonesia is a country of between 13,466 and 17, 504 islands, depending on whose figures you accept. Of this number, between 6,000 and 7,000 are inhabited and they stretch over 5,200 kilometres Aceh at the north-western tip of Sumatra to Papua in the south-east. This vast nation of islands hosts hundreds of different languages, six recognised religions (differentiating Christianity into Catholicism and Protestantism) and many different ethnicities. Indonesian, a form of Malay, is the official language. Java, with just 7% of the landmass, is home to 60% of Indonesia’s 260 million inhabitants. In 1945 Indonesia declared its independence from the Dutch:

‘We the people of Indonesia, hereby declare the independence of Indonesia. Matters relating to the transfer of power etc. will be executed carefully and as soon as possible.
Indonesia has been working on that ‘etc.’ ever since.’

For just over 12 months, Elizabeth Pisani travelled around Indonesia where her fluency in Indonesian and willingness to take part in the lives she visited and stayed with stood her in good stead. Her curiosity and capacity to fit in, to accept difference and to observe what is going on around her makes this book particularly enjoyable. There’s information about family and clan, about the importance of gifting, obligation and food, cultural and religious observance. There’s also a wealth of information about the effects of politics of democracy and decentralisation.
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Format: Hardcover
It probably goes without saying that if you have been lucky enough to travel to or through Indonesia then you will probably have a more vested interest in reading this. Even if you have never been I would still recommend this book.

Pisani is obviously a clever and very brave cookie, being fluent in the main language and aware of most of the customs, she sets off around this fascinating part of the world, at times it's a little over written but she fills the pages with so much passion, colour and life it's hard not to indulge the odd lapse. She really paints a clear picture of a muddied and conflicted part of the world and excels as a tour guide as much as author and you may come away with as many questions as answers.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For this fascinating book, journalist turned HIV epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani spent more than a year travelling to all four corners of the Indonesian archipelago. She talks to all sorts of people from the many ethnic and religious groups who live on the thousands of islands spanning over 5,000 kilometres to find out what makes Indonesia and its inhabitants tick. Giving us a nuanced socio-cultural tour with just the right amount of political and historical background, she brings this complex and increasingly important nation to vivid life, travelling mainly by motorbike and boat and receiving generous hospitality from the locals. The lack of photographs is more than compensated by excellent maps.
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Format: Hardcover
I could not put the book down.It is beautifully written , highly entertaining and illuminating throughout.I knew little about Indonesia and could not recommend a better book for getting a flavour for this extraordinary country.And am so glad the author had to do all the hard work to give us the images and insights as she really had to tough it out to do so.Even if you are not yet interested in Indonesia I would recommend this-travel writing at its best.
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