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Open Access Explosions in Semarang: Reading Malay tales in 1895

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Explosions in Semarang: Reading Malay tales in 1895

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On the morning of 12 December 1895, a well-dressed young man enters the railway station in the city of Semarang. He purchases a ticket, walks around on the platform, and then gets on the train to Solo, ready for departure. Once the machine starts moving, the man looks out of the window, visibly confused.He turns to his fellow passengers, many of them unknown to him. In Malay, the language of travellers, he exchanges information, tells and hears stories, discusses issues of daily life, of himself, of the people who, out in the rice fields, on the roads, in the plantations, are staring at the roaring machine passing by. Now and then the man looks into his own heart again, losing himself in empty thoughts. And with every tick of his watch the landscape out there changes its appearance. And farmers and labourers stop their work, distracted by the awesome noise of the iron monster.

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