Shadow on Screen The <em>Wayang Kulit </em>in <em>The Year of Living Dangerously</em>


  • Chad Habel Flinders University


Christopher Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously, wayang kulit, gamelan, dalang, Indonesia, Java, Sukarno, Suharto, film, Peter Weir, post-colonialism, postcolonialism, politics, representation, adventure fiction, journalism


The Year of Living Dangerously is perhaps the clearest example of Koch’s engagement with Asia. In this novel the wayang kulit, the Javanese shadow-puppet play, is used for a variety of purposes. It appears at crucial points within the narrative, and also serves as an overall structuring device for the novel. It frames the novel’s main plot, which depicts the last days of the Sukarno regime in 1965 and the coup which brought Indonesia to the brink of crisis. Furthermore, the characters of the wayang are used as archetypes for the characters in the novel, which creates space for reflections on stereotyping and the complicity of Western characters in the instability and violence experienced by Indonesia. Ultimately, the wayang is a motif and device of narrative and characterisation which allows Koch to explore notions of power and the abuse of power in a post-colonial context.

Author Biography

Chad Habel, Flinders University

Chad Habel has just completed a PhD on ancestry in the works of Thomas Keneally and Christopher Koch at Flinders University.