“This is the story of a white woman who lived for fifteen years in Indonesia – living, not visiting – knowing the country and its people, from the highest and the lowest, and sharing their joys and their sorrows.”
Finally…I have spare time to write this review. I wanted to write it since last week but time really against me. I know that not many people read my book review but reading without reviewing feels a bit odd now that I have been continuously doing it since 2 years ago.
Revolt in Paradise is my first non-fiction of this year, I usually read at least 1 non-fiction a year…this memoir is an autobiography by K’tut Tantri or formerly known as Muriel Stuart Walker. This book was banned years ago for reasons I can’t seem to find out. When I bought it, someone asked me where I found it, he was quite surprise because I own the book that is so hard to find here in my country.
Somewhere before 1942 (the book didn’t mention the year but as Indonesian I at least know that it is before Japanese Imperialism took Indonesia from the Dutch), Muriel who was a British born American citizen felt an urge to go to Bali after seeing how beautiful the island was in a movie. She landed on Batavia (which is now called as Jakarta) and continued alone by driving a motor through the jungle of Java island. She met a boy named Pito who showed her the way to get through to Bali. When she finally arrived at Bali, she soon found out how the Dutch discriminate the native Indonesian as primitive people that didn’t deserve to be at the same place as the white people.
“We Dutch rule these people by keeping them in their place. What will happen to that, do you think, if once they get the idea that the white people regard them as equals? You – a white woman – accepting the hospitality of a native family …”
When I read this discrimination part…I am glad that we are no longer under any colonialism. I hate discrimination of any kind and if I was living at that time, I sure had been the one who will be put in jail by the Dutch as I wouldn’t stand still being looked down by other race.
Muriel stood her ground and continued living with one of the Rajahs of Bali. Muriel was given new name by the Rajah, her name was K’tut Tantri (K’tut means fourth born in Balinese), and she was sort of adopted as the fourth born of the Rajah family. She soon learned Balinese and Malayan (the basic of Indonesian language). The Rajah has a kind-hearted son, Agung Nura, who had better judgment on the Dutch as he was once studied abroad and had better vision compare to others. I like how he told K’tut to not hate all Dutchmen because what needed to be hated was the colonial system not the whole Dutch people.
She built a hotel near Kuta beach and soon became famous to countries outside Indonesia….but her happiness was not for long. The Japanese joined World War II and came to Indonesia. As a white woman, she had to run away from Indonesia to avoid being captured by Japanese army. The Rajah asked her to marry Agung Nura to make her as a true Bali Woman, but she refused to do such thing. She managed to escape from Bali and went to Java. She was able to socialized with the Japanese for a while but her luck ran out and the Kempetai (Japanese spy) put her in jail and tortured her so that she would admit that she was an American Spy. This part of torturing made me a bit bored with the book. I’ll tell you why later.
She was freed by the Indonesian when Japan lost the war. She was there when Indonesia proclaimed her independence.
Those who witnessed this historic event heard President Sukarno in his deep, emotion-charged voice, declare simply, “With the blessing of almighty Allah, the Indonesian people declare their independence.” And the people wept, for the days of subjugation were over. Citizens of Indonesia would go forth with pride, no longer slave of any man.
That paragraph had successfully raised my pride knowing that we were freed from that day on till years to come and hope no country ever set their foot upon my land ever again.
Indonesian independence was seen as Japanese puppet government by the Dutch. The Dutch influenced the British to help them got back to Indonesia and abolished the puppet government. What Dutch didn’t know was that the government was supported by 70million people of Indonesia, it was not a puppet government at all.
K’tut was drawn to this revolution war against the coming back of the Dutch. She remembered the heroic attempt of Prince Diponegoro , 100 years ago, in trying to free Indonesia from the Dutch and that memory made her strong in helping Indonesia to gain her full freedom.
His noble spirit has been the inspiration of other brave men who have tried, again and again, to free Indonesia from its Dutch masters, only to suffer imprisonment, death, or exile to the dreaded Tanah Merah. But a century had gone by since Diponegoro. The situation had changed, and Merdeka (Merdeka means freedom) was no longer impossible of attainment. It would not be easy, but with seventy million Indonesians on the march toward independence they could not lose. This time, Allah was on their side.
The way K’tut describe the history of Indonesia was marvelous, she really knew how to tell a story. I have never read Indonesia history as fun as I read her writing. She shared our history in a way that can make any Indonesian proud of our revolution. However, the way she wrote about herself was too over the top…here is the part where I feel the book a bit off.
As I have said before, Revolt in Paradise is a memoir self-written by K’tut Tantri. It made me wonder how much truth can someone write about herself?
All the things she did for herself and Indonesia were too high rated. Her hotel became well-known, she didn’t bulge when the Japanese tortured her while other prisoners turned crazy, she knew so many famous people that involved in our revolution war and she was a dare-devil woman who would do anything to help anyone. Maybe what she said about her was right….but maybe not!! I couldn’t 100% trust everything I read about her involvement. When I read On Writing by Stephen King, SK didn’t write in a way that describes him as a great writer and for that I appreciate him a great deal. But in Revolt in Paradise, I felt like reading an amazing heroine told by the heroine itself….it was just too much.
She wasn’t mentioned in any of Indonesian history school-book, but I wouldn’t trust text book 100% either. I think some parts of her involvement were right but she spiced them up so well that she looked like a brave woman in and out.
I thought I was wrong for thinking like this, but when I searched through the net…I was amazed that I wasn’t the only one thinking like that. You can read these 2 articles Her obituary in Independent.co.uk and what The Bali Times thought about her.
The picture on the right showed her meeting President Sukarno.she said she never wore any clothes but Kebaya and Sarong while in Indonesia, so how come she didn’t dress in Kebaya in this picture?
Overall, this book is a good book to know about Indonesian History (you can read a bit of Our Independence in here)…I still gladly give this book 3 stars out of 5.
Title : Revolt in Paradise
Author : K’tut Tantri
Language : English
Page : 334
Publisher : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama
Challenge : New Author 2011