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Historian Anthony Reid on the allure of fiction

Evie Breese

The Jakarta Post

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Jakarta  /  Sun, March 24, 2019  /  06:02 pm
Historian Anthony Reid on the allure of fiction

Homage to Java: Clad in traditional batik shirt, Tony Reid was in town as a speaker at the International Forum on Spice Route where he launched his first work of fiction Mataram. (JP/ Evie Breese)

Prominent historian of Southeast Asia, Anthony Reid, uses the opportunity to look at the past creatively – through a somewhat romanticized lens – in his first novel. In 1995, New Zealand-born Reid had just published the second volume of the work for which he would become best known, called Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680: Expansion and Crisis, and was conducting fieldwork among the Batak people in North Sumatra. Already a prominent historian, he wanted to try his hand at anthropological fieldwork through submersion in the local culture to study the area’s transition to modernity. Finding himself in relative isolation and separated from his wife for an extended period, he decided to write the first chapter, and a daringly raunchy one, of a novel he had been imagining in his head on the many trains and buses involved in traveling to the rural loc...