Eyes of God

Eyes of God
Philip Babcock
pub. Edgeworth Press 2011
ISBN: 1463728190

Last year, I received an email. The message was brief: "I was deported from Indonesia some years ago (under Soeharto). Inspired me to write a novel."

I read a few reviews on Amazon which had a couple of key words – Conradian, thriller. These piqued my interest. I generally enjoy what I term 'train and plane' books, thrillers which transport me to a world far from the unpleasantness of long drawn out journeys, such as across Jakarta.

I wrote back to Philip Babcock asking if he'd be willing for me to review it. He agreed, the book duly arrived, and this is my review, one of the most difficult I've ever written. Since being deported and blacklisted in 1997/8 (?) he has never returned to this country and his alienation permeates his first novel.

Babcock is now an economics professor at the University of California and has achieved some objectivity. For example, he writes, "If a nation is endowed with a valuable resource, it may never develop value-added industries. Things come too easily."

At the heart of his novel is the fallout from the IMF deal as those anxious to grab a slice of Indonesia's economic pie, including American diplomats, jockeyed for position. Pertamina, the state oil company, was seen as the ultimate prize.

………………………………………..

A brief synopsis would tell you that in the late '90s Harry Griffin, also known as Harry, Griffin, Griff or as the young man, the buleman, the foreigner, the odd expatriate, the new guy, etc., newly graduated from Berkeley, is lured to the oil fields of Indonesia by his mentor and surrogate father, Cliff Ramsey.

Griffin expects to go to Pulau Hitam, one of the Riau islands, to work alongside Ramsey where Ramsey is working on an automation project for Amtech, an oil company.

Nothing seems simple in Indonesia, especially for a young idealistic young American lacking Indonesian, and this novel captures much of the chaos of the time. First, Griffin has to spend a short while in Jakarta where he faces the culture shock.

The city described by Babcock is well observed, and familiar 15 years later: one of the characters "arrived ten minutes early, in spite of the traffic."

He doesn't meet anyone from the Indonesian company because it's a Friday.

"Better Monday. The zoo, Mr. Harry. You see it. Yes?"

He gravitates to the hotel restaurant where a "dried-up shell" of a long-term expat dispenses his wisdom.

"The underlying Truth, Mr. Griffin, is that nobody knows anything. If anybody tells you that he knows, then he's a fraud because the fact is nobody knows. But if he doesn't know, and lets you know he knows he doesn't know, well, then, he just might know something."

At a party held by an official from the American Embassy, one of the Americans informs him that Ramsey has disappeared in an apparent suicide, so he, Griffin, has to take his place. He also meets a newly arrived journalist whose role is unclear, although he does end up with her that night at a wayang kulit show.

Shadows and light: the backdrop is of hidden matters.

It is this confusion which is at the heart of the novel, and has lead to this reviewer's difficulty. Yes, Indonesia is hard for those of us with a western mindset to grasp, but that there appear to be four – or is it five? – narrators does not make this novel a page-turner.

At the site, riven by ethnic divisions – the Batak security are derogatory about the Javanese – an explosion occurs and someone is killed, Griffin is blamed, although he has come to realise from Ramsey's notes found on a PDA that the technology being transferred would not work. He runs, he knows not to where, and through various hallucinatory escapades involving riots, beatings, interrogations, disguises and much else, ends up on the west coast in Padang, having somehow tranversed the vast island of Sumatra. By this time, he realises that he has been a pawn in the games of others.

If this novel has exorcised Babcock's demons from an obviously traumatic time, then I trust that the final two-part coda, which I won't reveal, in which Griffin eventually comes to terms with himself, is in no way autobiographical.

…………………………………………

Ever the pedant, I found that possible factual errors interrupted the flow of my reading. For example, did we use cards in public phones back in '98? We may have in Jakarta, but in small Sumatran towns?

Then, on page 272 we learn that the "girl was a Catholic, as most Chinese Indonesians in the archipelago are." No, they're not. In Sumatra maybe, but Protestants outnumber Catholics approximately seven to three in the archipelago.

Then on page 273 a soldier is described as having "a hard face with sharp Batak features." My Indonesian family is Batak, and all of them have rounded features. Was the soldier perhaps an Acehnese?

What I found difficult is that that there are four – or is it five? – narrators; this does not make the novel a page-turner.

Neither do the various characters who are assigned labels before their names are given, often pages later. Thus 'Contact' is revealed to be 'Townsend', who had held a house-warming party in Jakarta 300 pages earlier.

Elsewhere, at various points in the narrative there is an analysis which seems out of place, as if Babcock is still working out the reasons for his abrupt departure from Indonesia. For example, in a scene towards the end of Griffin's ordeal, set in a Padang police station cell, a "technocrat", later identified as Harseno, with presidential ambitions describes the "auspicious continuity" of the "guiding principle of Javanese politics."

Indonesia is hard for those of us with a western mindset to grasp. I suspect that Eyes Of God is Babcock's attempt to finally understand why he was victimised. I an inteview (to be found on Amazon) he says that his deportation was engineered by a rival company to that which employed him.

Eyes of God hopefully repays a second and third reading. For that I'll wait for my next plane or train trip.

4 Responses to “Eyes of God”

  1. ultratupai says:

    "If you want to understand Java, you have to understand the [sacred shadow play]. The puppet master is a priest; balancing the left with the right.  The shadows are souls, and the screen is heaven. You must watch their shadows, not the puppets. The right in constant struggle with the left. The forces of light and darkness in endless balance.
     
    “In the West, we want answers for everything. Everything is right or wrong, or good or bad. But in the [shadow play] no such final conclusion exists.
     
    “Look at Prince Ajuna. He’s a hero. But he can also be fickle and selfish. Krishna says to him, “All is clouded by desire, Ajuna, as a fire by smoke, as a mirror by dust. Through these, it blinds the soul."
    .
    So says Billy Kwan in Christopher Koch's book The Year of Living Dangerously.
    .
    I suspect that Philip Babcock lived his own shadow play. Javanese politics will always be and always remain embedded in the wayang kulit. Clouded as a mirror by dust. At times wickedly and tragically bloody.

    • Jakartass says:

      Well put, UT.
      .
      It would have helped my reading of Eyes of God if something like that had been included. As I've tried to point out, IMO, the subtext needed more of the context explained. If I was left somewhat bemused, I wonder about how readers with little or no knowledge of Indonesia would cope with the many levels and sidetracks.

  2. blueddy says:

    have you seen eyes of god?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

orlistat express online buy orlistat no prescription low cost buy generic orlistat online no prescription xenical online purchase xenical online consultant order xenical without rx buy online rx xenical without orlistat online consultant orlistat bestellen xenical rx cheap where can i buy orlistat without a perscription? buy orlistat offshore no prescription fedex buy xenical no visa online without prescription order no prescription orlistat non prescription orlistat orlistat cheap no rx required canada were to buy orlistat orlistat overdose orlistat no prescription needed 120mg purchase xenical online without prescription xenical tablets 120 mg no prescription australia how to buy orlistat without a prescription order overnight xenical buy xenical without rx needed purchase generic orlistat online orlistat generic cheapest xenical online canadian generic orlistat no prescription xenical with no r x and free shipping order orlistat without a rx overnight shipping arcoxia purchased online without prescription principen with free fedex overnight buy herbal revia fedex arcoxia without priscription how to get prescription of lamictal zovirax usa order desogen overnight cheap cycrin mexico canadian zovirax diet pills without a prescription order principen for cash on delivery discount cleocin keflex precio cheap generic benicar buy no perscription atarax buy vantin no rx buy generic cleocin canada tenormin fast delivery no doctors purchase zovirax over the counter cod overnight order prescription free cleocin how to get zovirax zovirax without a rx buy tenormin daily use purchase revia cod overnight delivery can i get principen without a prescription? desogen from mexico generic asacol 400 mg tenormin on line no script how to get zovirax purchase revia online no membership overnight shipping want to buy atarax in malaysia zovirax online without prescription where to buy generic keflex online without a prescription buy vantin overnight tenormin order zovirax with no prescription overnight shipping zovirax shipped overnight without a prescription vantin with no prescriptions buy atarax on line amex buy tenormin generic purchase revia online no membership overnight shipping keflex without rx medications revia effects atarax oral tablet no prescription discount order xenical no visa orlistat online order buy orlistat without a rx overnight delivery buy orlistat shipped cod order xenical no prescription xenical 60 mg without prescription generic xenical online where to purchase orlistat no prescription no fees ordering xenical online without a prescription buy xenical no prescription needed buy orlistat american express buying xenical without a prescription order orlistat order amex xenical prescription online next day delivery buy orlistat without a prescription online do you need a prescription for orlistat in mexico ordering xenical online without a prescription orlistat rx cheap xenical overnight without rx purchase orlistat without prescription to ship overnight where to buy generic xenical online without a prescription ordering xenical online without a prescription us xenical fedex buying xenical without a script order xenical overnight cheap orlistat 120mg tablets express shipping buy xenical online without prescription cheap orlistat by money order xenical online doctors buy xenical next day delivery buy online rx orlistat without how to get a xenical prescription purchase xenical online no membership xenical overnight online xenical generic buy xenical online with next day shipping orlistat no prescription order overnight orlistat xenical overnight no consult orlistat cheap online how to buy xenical online without a prescription pay cod for xenical without prescription orlistat canadian pharmacy orlistat buy fedex buy discounted orlistat online buy orlistat american express purchase orlistat online without rx where can i buy orlistat over the counter buy generic xenical online Orlistat online without prescription no prescription Orlistat on line pharmacy how to order Orlistat order Orlistat online Orlistat over the counter purchase Xenical online with overnight delivery where to purchase generic orlistat online without a prescription buy generic orlistat online no prescription Orlistat buy online Xenical online doctors where can i order Orlistat online Xenical delivered overnight where can i buy Orlistat over the counter purchase Xenical pay pal online without rx generic 60mg orlistat online ordering xenical without a script no script xenical xenical without prescription medications buy xenical without prescription to ship overnight generic orlistat without prescription canada xenical no doctor prescription order cheapest online orlistat purchase no perscription orlistat get Orlistat without prescription order Orlistat overnight safety order Xenical buy Orlistat Buy Xenical tablets buying Xenical without a prescription Orlistat online sale without prescription purchase Xenical without prescription needed buy cheap fedex Xenical buy Xenical without a prescription overnight delivery order Orlistat mastercard Buy Xenical online cheap buy online rx Xenical without buy Orlistat no prescription Orlistat generic online order Orlistat online us pharmacy Xenical i want to buy pregnizone without a prescription buy Xenical cheap without prescription Orlistat 60 mg for sale usa prednisone by mail purchase prednisone cod overnight delivery prednisone price where can i buy prednisone without prescription purchase prednisone online with overnight delivery prednisone online without prescription buy generic prednisone canada prednisone buy prednisone prednisone pharmacy how to purchase prednisone online without rx prednisone tablets buy prednisone pay pal without prescription purchase prednisone no visa online without prescription buy orlistat without prescription australia online purchase orlistat online pharmacy no prescription orlistat cheap online pharmacy for orlistat orlistat online no prescription orlistat u.p.s shipping cod how to by orlistat online buying orlistat online without prescription orlistat prescription cost 120 mg orlistat orlistat prescription online next day delivery ordering orlistat online without a precription generic orlistat without a precsriptions orlistat 120 mg without prescription buy orlistat no scams order buy orlistat online buy genuine orlistat in the u.s. buy orlistat without a prescription cheap purchase orlistat purchase online prescription orlistat generic xenical online buy orlistat on line buy genuine xenical in the u.s. buy cheap generic orlistat xenical without rx buy xenical from a usa pharmacy without a prescription orlistat without a rx how to purchase orlistat online without rx order xenical order amex buy xenical online 120 mg no prescription no prescription generic xenical buy orlistat on line amex orlistat ordered without a perscription how to purchase orlistat orlistat for sale without prescription purchase xenical cod delivery buy xenical without a r x buy generic orlistat without perscription purchase generic orlistat online orlistat prescription cost xenical overnight delivery no r x buy xenical online no prescription orlistat buy online no prescription cheap prices on xenical non prescription orlistat canadian prescriptions xenical buy orlistat cheap without prescription generic orlistat no prescription order cheap overnight orlistat buy orlistat no prescriptions generic 120mg orlistat online c.o.d xenical el orlistat generico can i get orlistat without rx xenical order overnight low price rx online website orlistat buy xenical next day delivery xenical without a prescription or membership cheap prices on xenical buy generic orlistat online no prescription no prescription xenical generic xenical no prescription xenical non rx fedex overnight free cheap order rx orlistat buy cheap generic orlistat online canada pharmacy no prescription buy orlistat online without prescription from canada orlistat cheap online orlistat from mexico xenical without a r x cheap prices on xenical where can i order xenical online orlistat available at health department indian xenical orlistat online prescription orlistat available canada purchase orlistat free consultation order xenical without a prescription overnight shipping buy orlistat in england xenical with overnight fedex purchase xenical without a rx online purchase orlistat without rx needed orlistat without prescription shipped overnight express buy xenical cheap without prescription order orlistat overnight cheap orlistat available at health department xenical without a prescription overnight shipping orlistat and orlistat xenical without a presciption xenical shipped cash on uk medication orlistat xenical buy online purchasing xenical without a script buy discount orlistat buy generic orlistat canada generic xenical fedex buying orlistat online orlistat price real orlistat without prescription orlistat generic buy xenical australia no prescription order orlistat without rx from us pharmacy no prescription orlistat on line pharmacy buy orlistat no visa online without prescription buy orlistat without a prescription online generic orlistat without prescription order orlistat no visa orlistat overnight delivery fed ex buy orlistat cod overnight xenical without a prescription orlistat no perscription required buying xenical without a script no prescription xenical buy orlistat online without prescription how to get xenical without buy xenical order generic xenical online no prescription how to get a xenical prescription buy in orlistat uk overnight no prescription xenical buy orlistat oral xenical from canada buy xenical oral buy orlistat no prescriptions generic orlistat no prescription (buy orlistat canada|generic Orlistat no prescription|Orlistat oral tablet no prescription discount|non prescription Orlistat|ordering Orlistat online without a precription|Orlistat online without a prescription) Orlistat oral tablet no prescription discount where to buy xenical no prescription no fees purchase orlistat paypal without prescription no rx cod orlistat how to order xenical online without a prescription cheap generic xenical no prescription xenical shipped overnight without a prescription orlistat from mexico achat orlistat generic orlistat prices purchase xenical amex online without prescription xenical no doctors prescription orlistat available at health department purchase orlistat paypal without prescription purchase cheap online xenical no prescription generic xenical buy xenical no script xenical no dr contact purchase xenical online buy orlistat from india order xenical online consultation xenical without prescription buy orlistat without rx from us pharmacy buy maxalt without a perscription where to buy Maxalt by cod buy Maxalt epharmacist Maxalt without prescription Maxalt cheap mexican maxalt prices Maxalt buy cod purchase Maxalt Maxalt buy online buy generic maxalt pills online Maxalt buy buy Maxalt online from canada achat Maxalt how to buy Maxalt without a prescription order Maxalt usa buy Maxalt 5 mg Maxalt from india buy no online rx Rizatriptan buy Maxalt doctor prescription Maxalt no doctors prescription buy low cost Maxalt el Maxalt generico Maxalt pharmacy online Maxalt purchase Maxalt overnight buy Maxalt in india buy discount maxalt online buy Maxalt without a credit card where to buy Maxalt without a prescription Maxalt with repronex online Maxalt purchase buy Maxalt toronto cheap Maxalt uk generic Maxalt online buy cheap generic Maxalt online Maxalt from india is it safe prezzo Maxalt Maxalt 10mg Revia deliver to uk fed ex overnight order Atarax cheap overnight buy discount Keflex on line requip buy online mail order requip where to buy requip online requip generic how to buy requip where can i buy Maxalt without prescription buy pharmacy Maxalt waterview buy Maxalt without doctor buy Maxalt online without prescription Maxalt capsule buy maxalt online us pharmacy Maxalt 10mg purchase Maxalt buy Maxalt fed ex uk Maxalt order arcoxia overnight cheap buy benicar on line amex buy feldene toronto cheap zovirax usa desogen without rx is it legal to buy arcoxia online no prescription needed atarax buy revia without a percsription 50 mg lamictal canadian pharmacy no prescription asacol

Bad Behavior has blocked 1771 access attempts in the last 7 days.

-->