It is a tough decision for me to pick just one good book as a recommendation. I read many books, any genres, from novel to how-to-get-rich-fast book, written by any authors, from award winner to one hit wonder authors.
However, if I must pick one, I would recommend Agustinus Wibowo’s Garis Batas (literally means borderlines). The book is currently only available in Bahasa Indonesia, although I heard one of his books have been published in English, Titik Nol (Ground Zero), so expect the this one might be published in English soon.
This book is a compilation of Agustinus’ memoirs during his trip to Central Asia, mainly to the former Soviet Union territories, which now became independent nations. I called them ‘Stan countries’. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (the most misspelled country in Sporcle quiz).
Stan means land, and the first parts of the names represents the country’s major ethnicities. So Kazakhstan means the land of the Kazakh, and so on.
These countries were annexed by the Soviet Union before the World War 2. The partition created by the tyrant, then they lost their autonomies and all domestic affairs were decided by the central government in Moscow. These areas were called SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) e.g. Kazakh SSR, Uzbek SSR, etc. Until the end of the 80s, when the Glasnosts and Perestroika movement led to the dissolution of the USSR. They declared their independences.
The problem arose since then, because USSR had created many pockets of enclaves among these countries, by moving some people from one SSR to another, in the name of assimilation. For example, they moved Uzbek people to Kyrgyzstan to live there. The fact was these assimilation caused more harm than good. It failed. And, when these countries became sovereign, these enclaves joined their parent countries, not with the countries they are physically located in, because of cultural reasons.
Families are separated, culture, faith, languages are estranged and countries are in the risk of war because of fighting over the economic resources. Absurd borders divide people, animal, and life. Agustinus describes all of the issues very clearly and concisely with a picturesque narrative language. With his background as a journalist, he sometimes had something unexpected while he was investigating the issue.
He was detained by border officer because he had been accused for spying the country, had car he hitchhike broken down, and was invited to a traditional wedding party. These were the few thrilling examples of what he experienced in the book. Agustinus succeed in hypnotizing his readers to feel the sadness and happiness brought by those imaginative borders of the sovereign countries.
I always love history, but this book has opened my eyes to see beyond and deeper about what happened underneath the political situation in an area, which is its people.