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Jakarta Post

‘Twilight in Jakarta’ - A portrait of a nation on the brink of disintegration

  • Duncan Evans


Jakarta   /   Mon, September 5 2016   /  10:45 am

Among its many virtues, perhaps the most striking thing about Mochtar Lubis’ Twilight in Jakarta is that although written more than half a century ago in the 1950s, the novel illustrates that the fundamental tensions of Indonesian political life have changed little in the intervening years.A cursory reading of contemporary Indonesian newspapers confronts the reader with the problems of entrenched corruption, poverty, the manifold difficulties of erecting a functional democracy after years of authoritarian rule, the deep and ever-present fear of separatism and the specter of a metastasizing militant Islam that wants to up-end it all in a fire-swell of religiosity.

In the pages of Twilight in Jakarta, many of the same forces are at work. Mochtar’s journalistic novel ropes together a range of characters and uses them to embody the corruption, philosophical warfare and political ...