Young Soeharto: The Making of a Soldier, 1921-1945

Young Soeharto: The Making of a Soldier, 1921-1945
David Jenkins , author
Date of publication:  2021
Publisher:  ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute
Number of pages:  503
Code:  BM588
Soft Cover
ISBN: 9789814881005
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"In his exhaustively researched and magnificently written biography of Suharto's early life, Australian journalist David Jenkins reveals his lifelong fascination with a man characterized in an earlier biography written by a German journalist in the 1970s as "The Smiling General." For behind that smile, no one really knew what the man was thinking -- or much about him. 

What Jenkins describes so well is the evolving landscape of the late Dutch period in Indonesia. The level of detail is often mesmerizing. 

Until now, there was only Suharto's account of these formative years in which he presents himself as a model policeman and soldier. In interviews that Jenkins conducted with members of the Japanese occupation force who trained Suharto, they told a different story of a man who was cautious, reserved, and tended to do as he was ordered to get ahead."

James Castle, The Jakarta Post, 2021. 

'The first volume of David Jenkins' long-awaited biography of the architect of modern Indonesia is now available from Singapore's ISEAS Publishing. 

Released on June 30, 2021, Young Soeharto: The Making of a Soldier, 1921 - 1945 is a masterpiece. At once comprehensive and compelling, the biography will be a delight to serious scholars and armchair historians alike. While the massive volume runs 503 pages comprising 300 pages of text and over 150 pages of footnotes, bibliography and glossary, it also contains nearly 20 pages of photographs and is beautifully printed. The reader is carried easily on the Jenkins' smooth prose, sharpened by the Australian journalist's decades as a reporter and editor of note. 

As in the rest of the book, Jenkins is masterly in his treatment of the behavior of both Japanese and Indonesians as defeat loomed for the former, and includes information from interviews with former Japanese soldiers who were Soeharto's superiors and remembered him well. Indeed, another one of the book's strengths is the knowledge gleaned from Japanese sources. 

And here the book concludes, leaving the reader hungry for the promised volumes two and three that will take us through the early years of independent Indonesia, the deadly turmoil of the 1960s and Indonesia's economic rise to middle income status under Soeharto until he resigned in May 1998, amid the pressure and instability generated by the Asian financial crisis."

Hamish McDonald, Born survivor | Inside Story2021.

"Written with Jenkins's characteristic clarity and verve, and painstakingly sourced, it is an enthralling read. As the list of acknowledgements shows, he managed to speak with most of the key surviving figures from the Soeharto era before they died.

The knowledge Jenkins has garnered since he arrived in Jakarta in 1969 as correspondent for the old Melbourne Herald has been a long time brewing. The two scholars whose endorsements appear on the cover of Young Soeharto, Benedict Anderson and Jamie Mackie, both died some years ago. Rather than some Javanist feat of posthumous telepathy, their approval came from their close reading of the draft and their guidance as it proceeded. 

.... This volume runs to some 500 pages and covers only the first twenty-four years of his life. ....The core of this volume is a highly readable narrative of some 300 pages."

About the publication

When a reluctant President Sukarno gave Lt Gen Soeharto full executive authority in March 1966, Indonesia was a deeply divided nation, fractured along ideological, class, religious and ethnic lines. Soeharto took a country in chaos, the largest in Southeast Asia, and transformed it into one of the “Asian miracle” economies—only to leave it back on the brink of ruin when he was forced from office thirty-two years later. 

Drawing on his astonishing range of interviews with leading Indonesian generals, former Imperial Japanese Army officers and men who served in the Dutch colonial army, as well as years of patient research in Dutch, Japanese, British, Indonesian and US archives, David Jenkins brings vividly to life the story of how a socially reticent but exceptionally determined young man from rural Java began his rise to power—an ascent which would be capped by thirty years (1968–98) as President of Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation on earth. Soeharto was one of Asia’s most brutal, most durable, most avaricious and most successful dictators. In the course of examining those aspects of his character, this book provides an accessible, highly readable introduction to the complex, but dramatic and utterly absorbing, social, political, religious, economic and military factors that have shaped, and which continue to shape, Indonesia.

“A dazzlingly impressive piece of scholarship ... a wonderfully readable story.”
—The late Professor Jamie Mackie

“Jenkins has succeeded, in a manner like none before him, to convey the feel, spirit, energy and texture of these formative years of Indonesia’s making, marked by violence, triumph and calamitous failure, and brutal intrigue. Jenkins’s Soeharto reveals the man… and his long, mostly quiet emergence, in brilliant contextual detail, and shows how he developed his extraordinary capacity for political adroitness and concise, decisive leadership.”
– Emeritus Professor R.E. Elson, author of Suharto: A Political Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

“David Jenkins [is] the leading historian of the Indonesian military.”
—The late Professor Benedict Anderson, author of Java in a Time of Revolution: Occupation and Resistance, 1944-1946 
(Cornell University Press, 1972)

“An extremely valuable contribution to the literature on Indonesian political history... Using Soeharto’s life as a connecting thread, David Jenkins weaves together a marvelous and colourful study of Indonesia political and military life …. fascinating.”
—Dr Peter McCawley, author of Banking on the Future of Asia and the Pacific: 50 Years of the Asian Development Bank 
(Asian Development Bank, 2017)


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