Shooting Balibo: Blood and Memory in East Timor, by Tony Maniaty
Sydney: Viking, 2009. Reviewed by MARCUS O’DONNELL
EARLY on in Tony Maniaty’s Shooting Balibo we come across Herman Melville, Michelangelo Antonioni and John Dos Passos. We quickly get the message that this is as much a journey of the imagination as it is a travelogue, memoir or investigation. Maniaty tells us that when he went to East Timor as an ABC reporter in 1975, just before the ill-fated journalists, his travel reading was Melville’s Moby Dick. Here we get a sense of the young journalist’s ambition, his questing commitment to follow the story, just as Ahab follows his whale.
But in retrospect it also tells us how large the 1975 events at Balibo have figured in Maniaty’s life. Shooting Balibo narrates his recent return to Timor, as an advisor to Robert Connolly’s film Balibo and marks the first time he has returned to the tiny island nation since he fled just before the Indonesian invasion in 1975. In a sense, the book is still about him following the whale.