Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani - review by Richard Cockett

Richard Cockett

Their Island Story

Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation


Granta Books 404pp £18.99

Indonesia must be the biggest country in the world that you know almost nothing about. With 250 million people it is the fourth most populous, after China, India and the USA – but could you name the president? Or any city other than Jakarta? Or just one famous Indonesian? Maybe one of the above, but certainly not all three. One of Indonesia’s smaller islands, Bali, is probably better known than the country itself. And how many people know Bali is in Indonesia?

It’s Elizabeth Pisani’s mission to dispel some of the ignorance about the country in this sharp, enjoyable and well-organised book. She is surely right in her subtitle: as well as being the biggest unknown country in the world, Indonesia must also be one of the most improbable. Consider the evidence.

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