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ISBN:1 92073 114 8
In 1998, the poet John Mateer arrived in the Sumatran city of Medan, his intention merely to write a handful of poems and investigate the origins of Cape Malay culture. But with a keen eye for detail and a fascination with everyday life Mateer was soon recording his daily experiences
The Indonesia of Semar’s Cave is not that of the television news. Whether describing a package tour to Lake Toba , meditating at Borobudur or discussing literature at an embassy party in Jakarta, Mateer’s insights into Indonesia today are measured and precise.
Neither travel writing nor reportage, neither exotica nor history, Semar’s Cave is what may be expected of a poet of his calibre ‹ an understated yet challenging reflection on the ethics of travel, writing and being Australian in Indonesia.
Mateer brings a poetic integrity and a gentle calm to his detailed representations of daily life in Indonesia. The shock of the foreign is in many ways only the surface layer of the fears and fascinations we assume. More deeply embedded is the notion that we never really understand ourselves until we become foreign. With that as his ethical focus, John Mateer has succeeded where so many others have failed, by revealing the complex and dangerous liaisons between individual history and mass nationalism. Brian Castro– Brian Castro