In the Time of Madness
Indonesia on the Edge of Chaosby Richard Lloyd Parry
“Deeply felt . . . His elegant, understated prose preserves a bubble of sanity amid the madness.” –Bryan Walsh, Time
In the last years of the twentieth century, foreign correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry found himself in the vast island nation of Indonesia, one of the most alluring, mysterious, and violent countries in the world. For thirty-two years, it had been paralyzed by the grip of the dictator and mystic General Suharto, but now the age of Suharto was coming to an end. Would freedom prevail, or was the “time of madness” predicted centuries before now at hand?
On the island of Borneo, tribesmen embarked on a savage war of headhunting and cannibalism. Vast jungles burned uncontrollably; money lost its value; there were plane crashes and volcanic eruptions. After the tumultuous fall of Suharto came the vote on independence from Indonesia for the tiny occupied country of East Timor. And it was here, trapped in the besieged compound of the United Nations, that Lloyd Parry reached his own breaking point.
A book of hair-raising immediacy and a riveting account of a voyage into the abyss, In the Time of Madness is an accomplishment in the great tradition of Conrad, Orwell, and Ryszard Kapuscinski.
“Few have been able to document the change in this vast and complicated country as adeptly as Parry.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“A deeply felt account . . . His elegant, understated prose reserves a bubble of sanity amid the madness; he’s particularly adept at capturing the moments when history is about to be made.” –Bryan Walsh, Time Asia
“Freedom has its darker side. . . . You could not hope for a better guide to the strange and terrible transformation that befell Indonesia in 1998 than Richard Lloyd Parry. . . . Fills a crucial space on the bookshelves.” –The Economist
“[In the Time of Madness] is [Parry’s] memoir”capturing the bewildering pace of those events and reflecting on their meaning for Indonesia’s future.” –Reference & Research Book News
“Honest, reflective and self-critical . . . One of the most incisive portraits of moral failure by the so-called “international community” which this author has had occasion to read. . . . In its refreshing modesty of tone and subtlety of message, it beats the more epic accounts of “heroic” journalists such as John Simpson hands down.” –John T. Sidel, The Times (London)
“Shocking . . . Riveting . . . Truly sobering.” –Siobhan Murphy, Metro Life (London)
“This is a fine book, the best I’ve read on the implosion of human decency that took place in Indonesia as the New Order of President Suharto collapsed in the late 1990s. . . . He writes sensitively and well. . . . Lloyd Parry is a brave and indefatigable reporter who dug deep into a particular excrescence of human evil and came back with a story that is almost too heinous to believe. . . . A bold and beautifully written piece of reporting.” –John Sweeney, Literary Review (London)
“[A] boldly reported, introspective account . . . Clipped, vivid, and honest.” –Publishers Weekly
“In the Time of Madness . . . [is] the best of its kind to have emerged from the chaos that surrounded the 1998 end of [General] Suharto’s rule. . . . Written in the best tradition of a journalist’s dispatch from the strange land into which he has been parachuted, and occasionally echoes prior greats such as Ryszard Kapuscinski. As a result, In the Time of Madness is a badly needed addition to what until now was an often ponderously academic bibliography on contemporary Indonesia. . . . A courageously candid account.” –Shawn Donnan, FT Magazine (London)
“Most nations, if not every nation, seem to have a monster residing just below their surface, anticipating its own emergence according to the many calendars of madness hanging on the walls of so much hatred. When Indonesia’s monster was reborn in violence and incomprehensible atrocity, civilization’s last fragile shield from a full-on plunge into hell was provided by the journalists who watched it happen, correspondents like Richard Lloyd Parry, men and women who saved lives at the risk of their own and, just as importantly, preserved the stories by which we know, and might one day use to defeat, the monster. In this extraordinary book, Parry’s language, humanity, and courage are inseparable, a single strong wind of decency blowing hard against the mayhem on earth, but given the way things are these days, and the world’s flirtation with darkness, one can’t help but read In The Time Of Madness as a forecast of worse to come.” –Bob Shacochis, author of The Immaculate Invasion
“Richard Lloyd Parry is a brilliant story teller who found himself in a land abundant in tales. This book is a perfect marriage of intriguing land and perceptive narrator. Read it to understand what makes this vast archipelago as sinister as it is fascinating.” –Charles Glass, author of Tribes with Flags
“If you want to know what it feels like to be asked the question, ‘do you expect to be killed tonight?” then read this terrifying testament from the epicenter of ultraviolence in Indonesia. Richard Lloyd Parry frightens and educates by turns in the best tradition of reportage.” –Aidan Hartley, author of The Zanzibar Chest
“Lloyd Parry captures in fine detail the conflicted spirit of modern, boots-on-the-ground reportage: Having confronted the cannibal, do you taste the chunk of human thigh? A powerful and disturbing journey rendered in sensitive, graceful, appealing prose.” –Mike Sager, Writer-at-Large, Esquire and author of Scary Monsters and Super Freaks
2005 ‘What the Papers Say’ Foreign Correspondent of the Year
In the market square a few of the young warriors were standing around, and a single shop was open. There was a stand selling kebabs called sate; nearby smoldered the embers of a fire. Among them was a charred human femur. My guide Budi noticed it at the same time as me, and he suddenly looked stricken. His lips trembled and he was on the edge of tears.
A tall man in a yellow headband walked over from the sate cart. On his belt hung a rusty handgun. In greasy fingers he held a piece of gray, fibrous, partly cooked meat impaled upon a stick of wood. He pulled off a piece with his teeth and chewed it. His face was a foot away from mine.
He held the kebab out to me, and smiled. ‘silahkan.” Please eat.
“No, thank you.”
But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. The man continued to push the meat toward me, talking excitedly.
I experienced again the sensation of light trance, and of gravity failing around me.
I thought about how easy it would be to take the meat, and to eat it. I thought about the animals which I had eaten over the years: horse, dog, monkey, snake, snail, slug. I remembered in particular the monkey, which had been grilled over a fire in a jungle village. Its meat had been tough and gamey, but afterwards I had seen a relic of it: a simian right arm, hand, and portions of a rib cage. How far was a monkey from being a human? How close was I to being a cannibal?
©2005 by Richard Lloyd Parry Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.