Synopses & Reviews
Tales from a Charmed Life is the last in a trilogy of works by Hildred Geertz exploring the complexity of Balinese history, religion, and society. A landmark study by one of the most distinguished anthropologists of Indonesia, it centers around the stories and paintings of Ida Bagus Made Togog (1913-1989), an artist and ritual specialist who played a significant role in the history of Balinese ethnography. In the 1930s, Togog was central to Mead and Bateson's pioneering studies of "Balinese character" and came under the influence of expatriate artists Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet to emerge as a major representative of the Batuan style of painting. Togog's art and anecdotal stories of his most memorable life experiences are here interwoven with Geertz's illuminating commentary to construct an innovative framework for understanding Balinese culture. Togog shares stories of his early life, relating dilemmas from his childhood and youth. Growing up in the wake of Dutch colonization, he came into contact with new languages, customs, and economic opportunities that presented him with puzzling and poignant experiences. He tells of his association with Spies and Bonnet and later Mead and Bateson and his role in the creation of a genre of painting for which Bali is now famous. This is a view of Bali from the inside--a vivid, highly personal look at a world where spirits, ancestors, and sorcerers have the power to intervene in one's life. According to Togog, who narrowly escaped death numerous times, his was indeed a "charmed life."