Dodwell in 2013 SOM2 Surabaya - Post 12

April 19, 2013

It was Yuri Thamrin, Indonesia’s SOM convenor who reminded us this week that APEC’s new Executive Director, Dr Alan Bollard, is a man of many parts. And I am not simply talking about Alan Bollard’s extraordinary range of carefully understated but very artistic lapel pins he sports daily to liven the staid suits we are compelled to wear.

As if governorship of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and now leadership of APEC were not accomplishments enough, Yuri Thamrin alerted us that the self-effacing Dr Bollard is also an accomplished author. His first novel, “The Rough Mechanical: the man who could” is just published. Reviewers in New Zealand at least have been snooty and dismissive, I understand – saying he should stick to the economic books that he has authored in the past – his assessment of the 2008 global financial meltdown, “Crisis”, was published in March last year, and has apparently received much more enthusiastic attention.

His “Rough Mechanical” has been in the Kindle at my bedside through the past week (“Crisis” is on order from Amazon, so have not browsed it yet), and whether New Zealand’s literati are right or not to be snooty is for us in Surabaya beside the point. This is a book providing some fascinating insights into the man set to lead APEC for the coming three years:  the two sections of the book are titled “Die Teufelsmaschine” and “Deus Ex Machina”. Message number one – this is a man of many languages.

But then look at the dictionary explanations of these two phrases, helpfully provided:

  • “Die Teufelsmaschine” is the Devil’s Machine – a mechanical device for destruction, or in plays, a device to produce devilish stage effects, or in literature the introduction of a devilish theme into the narrative. Think of me as overly suspicious if you like, but what should the APEC institution think of all this? What destructive devices does Dr Bollard have in mind? Since APEC is nothing if not theatre, what devilish stage effects can we expect?

  • and “Deus Ex Machina” – the God in the Machine – described as the person arriving in the nick of time to solve a difficulty, or a mechanism in Greek literature for suspending gods above the stage, or in literature, a providential interposition. Are there people out there who see Dr Bollard flying in to APEC’s rescue? Who does he plan to suspend above the stage?

  • From every chapter in Part one focused on Devilish themes, and every chapter in Part Two preoccupied by the role of God, here is a man looking at some very fundamental forces.


Of one thing APEC can be clear. This is a man with the capacity and the inclination to tackle big challenges – whether devilishly, or arriving in the nick of time cannot yet be certain. And of one other thing we can be clear: his life in APEC could well become the subject of a future book. The big question, I suppose, is whether it should be fact or fiction. That will be a challenge indeed.

* Read post from Surabaya


[ Back ]