Roy Thompson, who lives in Ubud, writes that a new book on Bali is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the island and its culture.
The Bali Times, 18-24 June 2010
In the past few years there has been a plethora of books on Bali. Most of these books are primarily illustrative, for example, books of old photos of Bali, paintings of Bali, great homes and architecture of Bali, its arts and crafts, travel guides, and on and on.
Since Fred Eiseman first published what still remains the most important and definitive English language text on the essence of Bali, his brilliant work, Bali Sekala & Niskala, in 1990, there has been no other tome which has attempted to define and present the endless intricacies of Balinese culture and religion in an understandable and accurate manner.
Authors Jonathan Copeland and Ni Wayan Murni have bridged the gap between the scholarly and excessively detailed analysis presented by Eiseman and all the "fluff only" books subsequently published. Moreover, Eiseman freely admits in his seminal work that most of what he presents is based on his own studies in Jimbaran and thus not indicative or representative of other areas of Bali.
Jonathan Copeland and Ibu Murni present a broader picture, one which is based in what can arguably be called the cultural heart of Bali, which is Ubud.
Secrets of Bali is an insighful book which touches on virtually all facets of Balinese life and religion but is not a watered down version of Eiseman's seminal work. On the contrary, Secrets of Bali is a very easy read dealing with an almost incomprehensible and most confusing topic. It is well organised, carefully thought out and, most importantly, accurate. It is a must read for anyone who considers Bali as beyond the playground that is Kuta, or who comes here yearning for more than sun, fun and sex.
Secrets of Bali is the best book about the island written and published since 1990 when Eiseman's book was first published. And on a personal note, I have little doubt that it could not have been accomplished without the input of the Balinese "Dame d'Ubud", a brilliant and wonderful lady who is well known to all "Ubudians" as Ibu Murni, Ni Wayan Murni.
While a seasoned Baliophile may be left with a desire to dig deeper into certain topics, this brilliant primer into Balinese culture will surely satisfy those who are more serious about their Balinese studies, yearning for more than is available in guide books or books that are outdated, and no longer representative of the Bali of today.
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