By Leila S. Chudori
Translated from the Indonesian by John H. McGlynn

Recipient of the 2012 Khatulistiwa Literary Award, Indonesia’s most prestigious literary prize, Home is a breathtaking, epic historical novel exploring the lives of Indonesian exiles from the 1965 anti-Communist massacre to the overthrow of Suharto in 1998.

Published Date: October 27, 2015

Paperback: 9781941920107
Ebook: 9781941920114



Home is Leila S. Chudori’s remarkable fictional account of life in Indonesia and in Paris among political exiles during the reign of Suharto, from the 1965 anti-communist massacre of over a million alleged Communists and their sympathizers and its aftermath, through Suharto’s overthrow in 1998. The history of the 1965 massacre was manipulated by the Suharto regime to portray its involvement in this atrocity in a favorable light, a history explored by director Joshua Oppenheimer in his extraordinary Oscar-nominated documentaries The Act of Killing, and its powerful follow-up, The Look of Silence.

An entire generation of Indonesians was raised in a world of forced silence, where facts were suppressed and left unspoken. Home, one of the first novels in Indonesia to explore the history of the regime’s victims against the official state-sponsored version of Indonesia’s history, caused an immediate sensation when published in Indonesia in 2012, and was recognized with Indonesia’s most prestigious literary prize: the Khatulistiwa Literary Award.

The author spent six years researching this groundbreaking novel, interviewing exiles and their families in Paris and throughout Indonesia, basing her characters on these real individuals trapped in the tides of history. The novel’s central character, Dimas Suryo, abroad in 1965 and unable to return to Indonesia after Suharto’s rise to power, winds up in Paris, where he helps found a restaurant, based on the real Restaurant Indonesia, a place to join and celebrate their longed-for home culture through food, dance, and song, while suffering a lifetime of forced homelessness away from Indonesia. In another narrative strand of the novel, Lintang Utara, Suryo’s daughter with a Frenchwoman, arrives in Jakarta in 1998 for her thesis in film studies just as the student protests that bring down Suharto get underway. Father and daughter each become central characters in the history of Indonesia’s tragic 20th century, marking the rise and fall of a brutal dictatorship.

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On Jalan Sabang, Jakarta, April 1968

Night had fallen, without complaint, without pretext. Like a black net enclosing the city, ink from a monster squid spreading across Jakarta’s entire landscape—the color of my uncertain future.

Inside the darkroom, I know not the sun, the moon, or even my wristwatch. But the darkness that envelopes this room is imbued with the scent of chemicals and anxiety.

Three years ago, the Nusantara News agency where I worked was cleansed of lice and germs like myself. The army was the disinfectant and we, the lice and the germs, were eradicated from the face of the earth, with no trace left. Yet, somehow, this particular louse had survived and was now eking out a living at Tjahaja Photo Studio on the corner of Jalan Sabang in central Jakarta.

I switched on the red light to inspect the strips of negatives hanging on the drying-line overhead. It must have been around 6 p.m. because I could hear the muzzled sound of the muezzin drifting in to the darkroom through the grate in the door, summoning the faithful for evening prayer. I imagined the scene on Jalan Sabang outside: the quarrelsome cackling of motorized pedicabs; the huffing and puffing of slow-moving opelets searching for passengers; the creaking of human-driven pedicabs in need of an oil job; the cring-cring sound of hand bells on bicycles as their riders wove their way through the busy intersection; and the cries of the bread seller on his three-wheel contraption with its large box and clear glass windows. I could even see the early evening wind bearing the smoke and smell rising from skewers of goat satay being grilled on the brazier at Pak Heri’s itinerant but immensely popular food stall located smack dab at the intersection of Sabang and Asem Lama. I could see him using his well-worn pestle to grind fried peanuts and thinly sliced shallots on an oversized mortar, then drizzling sweet soy sauce over the mix. And then I imagined my good friend, Dimas Suryo, studiously observing Pak Heri and discussing with him his choice of peanuts with the same kind of intensity that he might employ when dissecting a poem by Rivai Apin.

Almost every evening, like clockwork, all other sounds from the outside were drowned out by the long shrill whistle from the steamer on Soehardi’s food cart as our regular vendor of steamed putu—a favorite treat of mine, those steamed rice-flour balls with their grated coconut on the outside and melted cane sugar inside—pulled up outside the photo studio. But other than the smell of Pak Heri’s goat satay, that sound was about the only thing—that shrieking sound—that was able to make its way into the darkroom. The deadly darkness of the developing room seemed to smother almost every sound. But the screak of the putu steamer and the smell of the cakes always served as a rap on the doors and windows of the photo studio. It was a sign the time had come for me to leave this room that knew no such a thing as time.


Nominated for the FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award 2016


“A writer with a fine appreciation of social collisions and domestic dramas that mirror wider political concerns. . . . Special mention must be made of John McGlynn’s translation, which admirably brings to life the energy of Chudori’s storytelling. Whether describing Indonesia – ‘a place that gave the world the scent of cloves and a wasted sadness’ – or contemplating the life of a flâneur ‘building his home in the flow and motion of movement’, McGlynn is consistently able to capture the musicality of Bahasa Indonesia on the page with pinpoint clarity – essential for a novel with a complicated, sometimes breathless structure.” — Tash Aw, The Times Literary Supplement (TLS)

“Chudori relentlessly examines the complexity of having a “home”; home can be both political and personal, and involve remembering and forgetting. . . . the novel stays grounded with nostalgic themes of food and love, anchoring the reader with mouthwatering detail and the intrigue of Romeo and Juliet–esque affairs.” — Publishers Weekly

“A story of families and friends entangled in the cruel snare of history.” — Time

“The suffering and loss that Suryo and the other exiles face, while realistic, is also utterly heartbreaking . . . The history might be new for American readers, but the relationship issues are universal. ” — Hannah Wise, Dallas Morning News

Home is an interesting and powerful novel, one worth reading and thinking over. It’s a book that lingers in your consciousness, not to mention the way the characters seem unwilling to leave your mind even weeks after reading.” — Meytal Radzinski, Bibiblio

“An epic, ambitious slab of fiction crammed with a rich and diverse cast of characters whose lives have been swept along by Indonesia’s dramatic and at times extremely tragic contemporary history . . . A wonderful exercise in humanism by a prodigious and impressive storyteller”. — Jakarta Globe

“If you liked the food writing in Kitchens of the Great Midwest, you might give this one a try. It’s set in Indonesia and Paris and has lots of scenes in restaurants that will make your mouth water. It’s a sprawling, engrossing story, and a great portrayal of political upheaval in very different cultures and across several decades.” — Rebecca Hussey, for Book Riot‘s “Recent Books in Translation: 6 Recommendations”

“Despite the background of violence and repression, it is also somehow a cosy read, about love and food in Paris and Jakarta.” — Hamish McDonald, Nikkei: Asian Review

“A highly entertaining epic, with a plethora of historical stories to tell.” — Messengers Booker

“Never less than fascinating . . . a wonderful introduction to Indonesian literature for readers with an interest in political, historical novels.”— Tony’s Reading List

“[Home] is a novel of art and education, and also of food and its importance in cementing a sense of community and belonging. For English-speaking readers unfamiliar with Indonesian culture and history, the novel is an excellent introduction. For any reader, it’s a thought-provoking read and a satisfying examination of what it means to have and then lose and then try to find one’s home.” — Rebecca Hussey, Full-Stop

“This is a book worthy of your attention for its illumination of a part of Indonesian history that has been consistently given short shrift. Read it for the history, for the evocative settings, and for the flavour of Indonesia that wafts gently from its pages.” — Samantha Brown, Travelfish

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