The topic of cultures clashing has always been fascinating to me, and Map of the Invisible World
by Tash Aw is a great example of how fiction can illuminate a complex history. By examining the lives of a few individuals during the struggle for independence in Indonesia, we see the pain, confusion and damage done to an entire country.
The story centers on the life of orphaned Adam, which serves as an effective metaphor for the struggle of a young nation trying to find maturity and security. No one in the book - whether indigenous or implanted - seems to have a home, or even know where home is or what it should look like. The story of a country with no past is really just millions of stories of people whose personal stories have disconnected from their own history. Even knowing your parents isn't the same as knowing your past.
The story is at once...
Beyond the Book
Map of the Invisible World
takes place during a tumultuous time in recent Indonesian history - the post-colonial turmoil that is common when empires finally relinquish territories they've been occupying for centuries. Like many areas of the world, Indonesia has been influenced and sometimes occupied by successive waves of immigration and religion:
The islands of Indonesian have been inhabited for a very long time - in fact, one of the first fossil remains of Homo erectus, known as "Java man" was discovered in this island archipelago. The descendants of the majority ethnic group in Indonesia today are believed to have arrived from Taiwan...