Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Paperback – 3 Jun 2004
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In Krakatoa Simon Winchester, author of The Map That Changed the World and The Professor and the Madman, focuses his considerable research powers on one of the most cataclysmic events of modern history: the volcanic eruption, in 1883, of the South East Asian island of Krakatoa, which resulted in the deaths of 36,000 people and sent shock-waves around the world. But what at the time was a mysterious, almost supernatural phenomenon has become, under the precepts of the contemporary science of plate tectonics, explicable if no less tragic.
Winchester veers between eyewitness accounts by survivors and the limited scientific measurements of the time in an attempt to describe the indescribable. The event "is still said to be the most violent explosion ever recorded and experienced by modern man", he writes. "Six cubic miles of rock had been blasted out of existence, had been turned into pumice and ash and uncountable billions of particles of dust." Yet words and numbers can barely hint at the scale of the calamity, which resulted in tsunamis that washed whole villages into the ocean and forever changed the very topography of the area.
The author also explores the social and cultural topography, noting that "Orthodox Islam, its revival in part triggered by tragic events such as the great cataclysm, was totally transformed in Java during the nineteenth century, with fundamentalism, militancy and profound hostility to non-Muslims its watchwords". At times Winchester seems to overstate his case, and the link he finds between Krakatoa and the rise of anti-Western sentiment in the Islamic world isn't especially convincing. But by weaving together the disaster with science, communications, politics, religion and economics, he has come up with a comprehensive and often fascinating glimpse into the way the world, and our perception of it, can change in an instant. --Shawn Conner, Amazon.ca -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
"Krakatoa is a pleasure from beginning to end." -- Boston Sunday Globe "A rattling good read." -- Boston Sunday Globe "A good read." -- Washington Post Book World A good read. --Washington Post Book World Masterful build-up of literary and geological tension. --The Economist A rattling good read. --Boston Sunday Globe Winchester s exceptional attention to detail never falters. --San Francisco Chronicle Supremely well told: a fine exception to the dull run of most geological writing. starred Kirkus Review--Kirkus Review (starred review) A real-life story bigger than any Hollywood blockbuster. --Entertainment Weekly Winchester...is noted for his ability to turn scholarly history into engrossing narrative. --Chicago Sun-Times Winchester scores. (byline Baltimore Sun, printed in Pittsburg Post-Gazette)--Baltimore Sun Brilliant...One of the best books ever written about the history and significance of a natural disaster. --New York Times Winchester once again demonstrates a keen knack for balancing rich and often rigorous historical detail with dramatic tension and storytelling. --Publishers Weekly (starred review) Krakatoa is a pleasure from beginning to end. --Boston Sunday Globe Winchester dramatically delivers...the book is absorbing... --Daily News The rich and fascinating KRAKATOA confirms [Winchester s] preeminence. Janet Maslin--International Herald Tribune "Winchester's exceptional attention to detail never falters."--San Francisco Chronicle "Krakatoa is a pleasure from beginning to end."--Boston Sunday Globe "Winchester scores." (byline Baltimore Sun, printed in Pittsburg Post-Gazette)--Baltimore Sun "Winchester once again demonstrates a keen knack for balancing rich and often rigorous historical detail with dramatic tension and storytelling."--Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Winchester...is noted for his ability to turn scholarly history into engrossing narrative."--Chicago Sun-Times "A real-life story bigger than any Hollywood blockbuster."--Entertainment Weekly "A rattling good read."--Boston Sunday Globe "Brilliant...One of the best books ever written about the history and significance of a natural disaster."--New York Times "The rich and fascinating KRAKATOA confirms [Winchester's] preeminence. Janet Maslin--International Herald Tribune "A good read."--Washington Post Book World "Winchester dramatically delivers...the book is absorbing..."--Daily News "Masterful build-up of literary and geological tension."--The Economist "Supremely well told: a fine exception to the dull run of most geological writing." starred Kirkus Review--Kirkus Review (starred review)See all Product description
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Winchester sweeps across continents and time-zones, academic subjects, eras and eons, technical developments, potted biographies (including frequently details of his own) and theoretical debates throwing out fascinating and easily comprehensible facts and histories. It is an eclectic mix and written in an engaging style centering, often elliptically, on the volcano itself.
So what is the 'but'? Why withhold two stars from a book that ordinarily would deserve five?
It is simply this; Winchester presents a wide-range of topics and he comes across as, while not an expert certainly, a man on top of his subject who has researched and understood that which he is writing about. However as I read, two glaringly obvious gaffes jumped out at me, two things presented as facts that are simply not so, two things about which I know that Winchester writes about incorrectly and which if you were unaware of them you might simply take as face value.
They thus led me to ask, if he got these two, very basic and easily verifiable, facts so badly wrong, how can I so sure he is correct on all the multitude of other facts he so liberally dispenses and about which I have little or no prior knowledge?
So what are these two egregious errors that so spoiled the book for me?
The first one appears in a footnote on page 142. It states in part that former Indonesian president Sukarno was "replaced by General Suharto in an American-backed coup d'etat, which led to the corruption and civil strife that disfigure Indonesia still." There are so many factual inaccuracies and blatantly biased editorialising in those few lines that it is actually difficult to know where to start. First off Suharto, actually a Lieutenant-General, did not take over the presidency of Indonesia in a US-backed coup, simple. The events of October 1 1965 remain vague to this day but unless you are Lyndon Larouche or Pravda circa 1974 (and in fairness to the latter probably not even them) no one seriously believes that the CIA organised the putsch against the right-wing Indonesian general staff on that day. It is absurd to put such a hare-brained theory forward as historical fact and discredits the veracity of any writer who does so.
Secondly Suharto did not get into power as an immediate result of the putsch, on the contrary while it certainly helped him, the fact remains that it took Suharto another two-and-a-half years of careful manipulating against the still very much leftist dominated government of Sukarno before Suharto finally became president in 1968.
Thirdly, Indonesia was racked by corruption and civil strife long before Suharto came to power, to somehow believe that Indonesia was some sort of Garden of Eden that was corrupted by the evil Suharto is childish and not worthy of serious consideration.
What is the other error then? It does not appear in a footnote but rather in teeth-gratingly irritating fashion throughout the book. Winchester continuously refers to the people across the Sunda Strait from Krakatau on the Banten coast as "Javanese", there undoubtedly were some Javanese among them but overwhelmingly those people were Sundanese. Ah, Javanese, Sundanese, you say tomato, so what? Well it is as absurd to write of the harbour-master walking among the terrified "Javanese" of Anyer as it would be for a writer discussing the Great Potato Famine of 1847 to describe walking among the starving "English" peasants on the hillsides of Donegal.
The Sundanese live on Java but anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of Indonesia would know that they are no more Javanese than the Irish are English. They are a separate people, with a different culture and language. The thing is Winchester knows this, he mentions the Sundanese in a footnote and then simply ignores them preferring instead to call them Javanese. No doubt he thinks Javanese sounds more exotic, and certainly more understandable to his readers than Sundanese, after all who's ever heard of them eh? But in doing so Winchester is making the same error that makers of the movie "Krakatoa East of Java" made, who cares if the volcano is actually west of Java? East sounds more exotic right?
Two small errors, but fundamental errors, errors that with a minimum of checking could have been avoided, but two errors on subjects that I actually know something about. The book is full of fascinating facts about a wide variety of subjects about which I am not knowledgeable and which I am supposed to take at face value.
If he can make such glaring mistakes about things that I know about, how can I be so sure that when he writes about gutta-percha, or Surtsee, or the Wallace Line he actually knows what he's talking about?
The Indonesian volcano of Krakatoa once lay in the busy shipping lane between Java and Sumatra, known forms a source of earthquakes and minor eruptions; but at the end of August 1883 it blew up – vaporising an estimated 6-cubic-miles of rock – virtually destroying the island. The explosion was heard 3,000 miles away, and the pressure wave circled the Earth three times. At least 36,000 people died from the effects of volcanic ash, pyroclastic flows, and tsunamis (unofficial tolls being much higher), and witness accounts of the eruption make for astonishing, nearly unbelievable, reading.
Winchester spends most of the book describing not only the geological and botanical history of the region, but the social and political background too; so by the time the reader begins to learn about the eruption itself, s/he has a comprehensive understanding of the society so tragically caught up in this event, and the enormous region affected.
Recommended to anyone with a interest in geology or the history of the Dutch East Indies.
The rising of Baby-Krakatao from 1928 sort of gives me a dubious feeling because every island previously had exploded at some point and it is all too predictable that Baby-Krakatao will do so, too.
Similarly to others here, I found the chapter on the ‘rebellion of the ruined people’ a bit out of place because there is no obvious link to the explosion of Krakatao and I couldn’t understand why there should be.
Apart from that reservation, this is an excellent book. You will enjoy every bit of it.
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