The world is filled with fascinating places. One of these places is the small Asian nation of East Timor. The Crossing: A Story of East Timor by Luis Cardoso took me to the island for a short stroll. Colonised by Portugal and occupied by Indonesia, East Timor hit the headlines around the world when gaining independence from Indonesia and becoming a sovereign state.
The book is a semi-autobiography about growing up in East Timor under Portuguese rule, and living in exile in Portugal after the Indonesian invasion. “All in all, more that 50,000 Timorese died, guaranteeing Portugal the continuance of its tragical colonial adventure, and guaranteeing the Australians the present sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen.” Lyrical, elegant, as well as poignant.
As a whole the book has an important message about remembering and forgetting, as well as changing the course of a small impoverished nation, and a whole lot of hope. I’ve found that during my read the world challenge there have been an incredible amount of books I would not recommend for casual or inexperienced novel readers, because it really takes a trained eye to get through some of the books. The Crossing is hard to follow from time to time. I found myself flipping back and forth to try to fully understand the book, but I have to admit it, from time to time I did not find the answer I was looking for.
What I enjoyed about the book was to be able to see and feel the impact Portugal, Indonesia, as well as Australia have had on East Timor, its history, culture and people, (without breaking the spirit of a nation). It is marvelous to see, read and hear about how countries have survived oppression and how people, by not giving up, show their strength. It seems like we in the Western countries have lost the spirit of the nation, maybe because it feels so long ago we were occupied, and we have lost touch with that part of our history and heritage. I find it strange since we read and reminisce about it all the time, but maybe we are immune to these stories by now…
The book is a special kind of an autobiography, the kind that in the end does not tell the reader that much about the author himself. Can it be called an autobiography in the end? Well, art is what everyone makes out of it. This piece of art is what the author wanted to share about his life. I still prefer a more straightforward approach where I don’t have to guess, fill in the gaps, or simple be confused from time to time. These features are all fine, but only up to a certain point.