sometimes voiCes

Hearing . . . implies an opening toward a sense which is undecidable,
precarious, elusive, and which sticks to the voice.
—Mladen Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More
heAring iMplies An opening
Already a long time ago now, when I worked, for instance, on the history of
the Indonesian military, on Indonesian technical thinking, or on a biography
of the first prime minister of independent Indonesia, the documents I read,
statistics as much as diaries, sometimes shifted as if uncomfortable and occa-
sionally giggled as I tried to make some sense of them. The idea to interview
elderly Indonesians about their early years came to me legitimately; I be-
lieved that the people would tell me about Dutch late colonialism as they re-
membered it amid their postrevolutionary and postcolonial present. A pre-
monition of a giggle might have been hidden in the idea already. Otherwise
this would be again a search merely for words—words, words, words.

Noise hit me unexpectedly. Very often I could get no words at all. “Some-
times a thousand twanging instruments will hum about mine ears; and
[only] sometimes voices.”1
It was a tropical noise, first of all, of course. There is a good deal of man-
made shade and darkness when it comes to intimacy in Jakarta, but doors
and windows are rarely closed. Most of life takes place on the street, on the
outside, in a space that is open, like on the porches, where also most of my
interviews took place. There is shouting and cries of the people all over my
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