In late 2011, epidemiologist, writer and adventurer Elizabeth Pisani granted herself a sabbatical from the day job and set off to rediscover Indonesia, a country she has wandered, loved and been baffled by for decades. She was on the road and the high seas for a year, covering dozens of islands in 27 provinces. This site records photos and musings from that journey and beyond. See more about the project


Indonesia doesn't give a fart for satire


As I struggle to pin the gloriously frustrating realities of Indonesia to the page, friends ask: wouldn’t it be easier to write the book as fiction? But as I look at the headlines that are churned out day after day: women must ride side-saddle on motorbikes, MPs will spend over half a million dollars travelling to Europe to check out witchcraft regulations, I think: “Fiction? You couldn’t make this up.”

Indeed when the witchcraft trip hit the headlines, I commented to a friend that Indonesia didn’t need to start a satirical magazine like The Onion; we could just mash together a random selection of real headlines and it would read just like satire. I think it is one of the reasons that slapstick always outguns satire or irony on the battlefield of Indonesian humour: it’s just too hard to tell the difference between reality and satire.

Check out this “news” story about Aceh banning immodest farts and ask yourself: is it any sillier than many of the other stories we see in Kompas?

2 comments to Indonesia doesn’t give a fart for satire

  • And the new law they want to push through, sex before marriage 5 years in jail…. I’ve been living in Indonesia for 16 plus years now and I just see the place going more and more backwards, it’s just so sad, not that it was all good 16 years ago when it was still the Suharto time with people disappearing left and right but at least people could eat and in some ways it was less repressive then it is now….. sedih….

  • I’ve enjoyed your writing, Elizabeth, and relinked this post on my snippets page.

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