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.