Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In The Year of Living Dangerously, his third novel (the first two were The Boys in the Island, 1958, and Across the Sea Wall, 1965), Koch draws on his experiences in Indonesia in 1968, when he helped develop an Indonesian educational broadcasting network. Although not a prolific writer—his only other novel is The Doubleman (1985)—Koch is a major Australian novelist by virtue of The Year of Living Dangerously, which was adapted to film in 1982. The film, which starred Australian actor Mel Gibson, enhanced the novel’s success and brought it to the attention of a larger audience. Although set in Indonesia, the novel, with its political intrigue, its conflict between Right and Left, and its neocolonial exploitation, calls Vietnam to mind.

In his fourth novel, The Doubleman, Koch returns to one of the themes of The Year of Living Dangerously: the Double. Broderick, the “doubleman,” comes to personify the duality and duplicity in the world; in fact, all the characters in the novel seem to be doubles. Thus, the doubling reflected in Billy’s relationships with Sukarno and Guy becomes the major metaphor of Koch’s next novel. The Doubleman also concerns the events of the 1960’s; a reviewer has praised Koch’s ability “to make an exactly caught phase of history symbolic of a larger reality.’ That ability to relate historical events to a “larger reality” is certainly in evidence in The Year of Living Dangerously.