This afterword was written for the Italian translation of Teranesia, published in November 2001.
I began thinking about Teranesia early in 1997, and I wrote it throughout 1998, which was a turbulent year for Indonesian politics. Attempting to write about the country’s future when everything was in a state of turmoil was difficult; when I began, President Suharto was still in office, East Timor was still a part of Indonesia, and the Moluccas were still reasonably peaceful.
Although I anticipated East Timor’s independence, I did not foresee the obscene slaughter by Indonesian-backed militia that would accompany the independence vote. Sadly, too, in the years since I finished the novel, the city of Ambon has been the scene of relentless violence, though in this case it has had nothing to do with independence, but rather inter-religious and inter-ethnic tensions that have been exploited by provocateurs hoping to keep the country unstable, for their own political and economic ends. I can only hope that the widespread civil war described in Teranesia does not eventuate, because as terrible as the actual tragedies to date have been, there is still the risk of violence on an even larger scale.
Another shameful footnote I need to add is that reality has become far worse than fiction in Australia. In 1998, we were already locking up asylum seekers in detention camps in remote locations. The locations became ever more remote as the years went by, culminating in a shabby political stunt in September 2001, when the Australian government used naval force against an honourable Norwegian captain who had rescued hundreds of Afghani and Iraqi refugees from a boat that sank en route from Indonesia. We then, farcically, spent several tens of millions of dollars transporting these people to the distant Pacific island of Nauru, all to prevent them from availing themselves of their rights under Australian law to seek political asylum on our shores. Worse still, there are now laws in place to limit these rights, and the only significant opposition political party is so morally bankrupt, and so corrupted by populism, that it too has endorsed every move the government has made in this regard. Afghanistan is being bombed as I write these words, and at the very same time, the Australian navy is being used to drive away boatloads of people who have fled the violence of the Taliban. It is my melancholy duty to report that I live in a nation of hypocrites.
8 October 2001