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A Certain Age: Colonial Jakarta Through the Memories of Its Intellectuals (John Hope Franklin Center Books)by Rudolf Mrazek
Synopses & Reviews
A Certain Age is an unconventional, evocative work of history and a moving reflection on memory, modernity, space, time, and the limitations of traditional historical narratives. Rudolf Mrázek visited Indonesia throughout the 1990s, recording lengthy interviews with elderly intellectuals in and around Jakarta. With few exceptions, they were part of an urban elite born under colonial rule and educated at Dutch schools. From the early twentieth century, through the late colonial era, the national revolution, and well into independence after 1945, these intellectuals injected their ideas of modernity, progress, and freedom into local and national discussion.
When Mrázek began his interviews, he expected to discuss phenomena such as the transition from colonialism to postcolonialism. His interviewees, however, wanted to share more personal recollections. Mrázek illuminates their stories of the past with evocative depictions of their late-twentieth-century surroundings. He brings to bear insights from thinkers including Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht, Le Corbusier, and Marcel Proust, and from his youth in Prague, another metropolis with its own experience of passages and revolution. Architectural and spatial tropes organize the book. Thresholds, windowsills, and sidewalks come to seem more apt as descriptors of historical transitions than colonial and postcolonial, or modern and postmodern. Asphalt roads, homes, classrooms, fences, and windows organize movement, perceptions, and selves in relation to others. A Certain Age is a portal into questions about how the past informs the present and how historical accounts are inevitably partial and incomplete.
An ethnographic study of Jakarta, derived from the author's interviews with the city's elderly residents.
An unconventional, evocative work of history and a series of moving reflections on memory, modernity, space, and time, all based on the author s interviews with elderly Indonesian intellectuals.
About the Author
“This is but the latest in a series of strong writings by Mrázek on Indonesia; he is certainly accomplished in the field. . . . [A] carefully crafted work. . . .” - Howard Federspiel, Indonesia
“In juxtaposing Indonesian and European voices from the 1930s to the 1990s, Rudolf Mrázek compels us to reconsider the unsettling because of contemporaneous origins and effects of modernity in the colony and metropole alike. In his highly textured and brilliantly edited interviews with aging urban revolutionaries, he shows how remembering the past entails recalling its traces archived and activated in voices animated by the noise of the street and the neighborhood, the music of salons and cinemas, the stuttering bursts of translations and trains, the routine hum of prison camp and classroom. They thus convey the force of a certain history that remains bound to yet irreducible to narration and analysis.”—Vicente Rafael, author of The Promise of the Foreign: Nationalism and the Technics of Translation in the Spanish Philippines
“In this original and very exciting work Rudolf Mrázek offers a stimulating way of thinking about historiography and a radical departure from the ways ‘we in the field’ are used to thinking and talking about the history of Indonesia. A rich text, resistant to generalizations, A Certain Age is evocative, moving, personal, disruptive, and subversive. It is a must-read.”—Henk Maier, author of We Are Playing Relatives: A Survey of Malay Writing
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