The Arts in a Time of Crisis
What the World is Reading

Jakarta: Best Sellers amid the Grief

Osama bin Laden and Nostradamus are like the trendsetters of a model agency in France. People hunt them down. The books about them are hot items and sought after either in bookstores or on the Internet. Some of these seekers are young people. What are they looking for? Osama’s name brings rage to the U.S. government and its allies.

For Erick, a student in Jakarta, and other hundreds of young people, Osama is an object of both curiosity and pride. “I want to know who he really is; he is exceptional because he fights the superpower America,” said Erick. Erick went to an Internet kiosk and typed the words “Osama bin Laden” in the Yahoo and Google search engines. He found more than 30 links on this Saudi Arabian businessman who lives in Afghanistan.

For Agus, who speaks no English, the kamikaze terrorist attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the allegation of Osama’s involvement impelled him to go to a bookstore.
In the Gramedia bookstore in Pondok Indah, Jakarta, he picked the book Osama bin Laden Melawan Amerika (Osama bin Laden Fights America), published by Mizan. In this book, edited by Ahmad Dumyahti Bashori, Agus found perceptions of Osama’s political views, Osama and Al Qaeda, and a light story about the reporter’s difficulty in interviewing Osama.

At the Ikapi Book Fair 2001 at the Jakarta Convention Center, the Mizan book outlet was full of prospective book buyers. “On the day of the World Trade Center bomb attack, the book was not selling well yet, but one day later it immediately sold,” the salesperson at the book outlet said. Mizan Publishers confirmed that since the book was first published, around 8,000 copies have been sold and now 5,000 copies are being reprinted.