Em Terras de Nári-Lautem

    De gente,
    o bulício matutino.
    De gente
    belo o acorde dos galos
    abrindo as asas
    por sobre os túmulos.
    o sol que limpava
    os olhos das crianças
    que tropeçavam no dia.
    De gente
    também, e sábio,
    o pensar dos velhos.

    E só ficou
    o cemitério jacente
    às casas que apodreceram.

    Só os mortos não morreram
    em Nári, terra de gente.

    (Ruy Cinatti)

I was pondering the many meanings of this poem last night, the way Cinatti plays with tense. Tourist, who pedaled through Lautem with me in October, helped me to read this as a sort of Timorese “Ozymandias.” I don’t accuse Cinatti of the same Orientalist “gaze” as Shelley. But there is something similar here.

Nári was considered one of the “last” places discovered and brought into Portuguese dominion. From what I know, Nári was pretty much destroyed with “pacification” and attempts to bring them into the colonial fold. For further reading I suggest a book published in 1962 by José Rodrigues, a missionary based in Fuiloro after World War II: O Rei de Nári: Histórias, Lendas, Tradições de Timor e Episódios da Vida Missionária.

I can’t help but see Cinatti’s juxtaposition of the living and the dead in this amazing Google Earth “collage,” the lands near Nári-Lautem. The Ira Lalaro lake is half represented in the dry season, and half in the rainy.

Ira Lalaro, wet&dry



Luis Cardoso suffers the rather unfortunate title of “Timor’s only novelist.” For if he were one of many, he would not be viewed as a token, he would not be celebrated for his nationality.

His works have been recognized in the UK (Granta published him) and he’s received praise across Europe.

His body of work, which is exceptional and gives us a living and yet historicized image of Timor, is not that widely available in Portugal. He publishes with one of the most recognized publishing houses, Dom Quixote. And yet his work has not received the critical attention it deserves.

This could be about to change, as Cardoso’s fourth book is being introduced by Antonio Lobo Antunes, a very private author who is revered for his gigantic, varied, reflective body of work.

While seemingly influenced by African and Portuguese writers, Cardoso’s tone and form of story-telling is far from cliché or even familiar.

The book is about WWII in East Timor, and the appearance on the scene of the mysterious French sailor Alain Gerbault, who the world learned only 1944 had died in Dili in late 1941, on the eve of the Japanese invasion. It deals with the tumultuous experience in the mountains and in Dili of the war, in a way that only Cardoso can tell it.

If you are in Lisbon, please go to the launch, details in the image above. If you read Portuguese, please pick up a copy. If neither, get a copy of The Crossing.

Matebian on Google Earth

What I have discovered about Google earth, is that as a whole, the north coast of Timor, Tasi Feto, has much better resolution. From Laga to Kom, we can see pretty sharp imagery. Unfortunately for those of us who are interested in the mountain areas, the resolution of the interior is pretty low.

It is high enough to give quite a good 3-D tour of the Matebian area, which I am working on.

Matebian Bird's Eye

Afaloicai-Uatocarbau view

Matebian Tilt

The bizarre color patchwork is a bit distracting. The Baucau area looks like a parched desert in the distance, it must have been photographed in the dry season.

In the next couple of weeks, I hope to offer an animated 3-D tour of the places mentioned in this blog. It will take me a while to get the way I like it, without internet at home, it’s been touch and go!