In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the Edge of Chaos
By Richard Lloyd Parry
Grove Press, 2006, 336 pp.
As a British journalist stationed in Tokyo from 1997 to 1999, Parry took many trips to Indonesia, which was then in a state of near anarchy, and made a habit of putting himself in dangerous situations: he covered the chaos that followed the collapse of the Suharto regime; witnessed the beastliness of the ethnic clashes of the headhunting Dayak and the migrant Madurese in Borneo; and, when living in the jungle with some Dayak, watched them bring in freshly severed heads of Madurese and devour human flesh. He was equally horrified by the brutality of the terrorist attacks in East Timor and the repressive tactics of the Indonesian army. What makes Parry's book unique is that he does not hide behind the abstract neutrality of objective political reporting. Instead, he dwells on his personal feelings and fears as he is caught up in horrifying events. "In East Timor, I became afraid, and couldn't control my fear," he writes. "I ran away, and afterwards I was ashamed." He thus makes vivid the emotional reactions of a civilized person caught up in the madness of mass violence. After what he went through, it is not surprising that he had nightmares even when sleeping in beautiful Bali.