The English-language debut of Indonesia's rising star.
The epic novel Beauty Is a Wound combines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humor, and romance in a sweeping polyphony. The beautiful Indo prostitute Dewi Ayu and her four daughters are beset by incest, murder, bestiality, rape, insanity, monstrosity, and the often vengeful undead. Kurniawan’s gleefully grotesque hyperbole functions as a scathing critique of his young nation’s troubled past:the rapacious offhand greed of colonialism; the chaotic struggle for independence; the 1965 mass murders of perhaps a million “Communists,” followed by three decades of Suharto’s despotic rule.
Beauty Is a Wound astonishes from its opening line: One afternoon on a weekend in May, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years.... Drawing on local sources—folk tales and the all-night shadow puppet plays, with their bawdy wit and epic scope—and inspired by Melville and Gogol, Kurniawan’s distinctive voice brings something luscious yet astringent to contemporary literature.
About the Author
The internationally acclaimed author of Beauty Is a Wound and Man Tiger, Eka Kurniawan was born in West Java in 1975, the day that the little ex-Portuguese colony East Timor declared its sovereign independence.
Annie Tucker won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Award for her Eka Kurniawan translation.
Eka’s approach in Beauty… mixes seriousness with irreverence, juxtaposing historical fact and magical realism in a manner reminiscent of Salman Rushdie.
— Clarissa Oon
An unforgettable, all-encompassing epic… Upon finishing the book, the reader will have the sense of encountering not just the history of Indonesia but its soul and spirit. This is an astounding, momentous book.
Brash, worldly and wickedly funny, Eka Kurniawan may be South-East Asia’s most ambitious writer in a generation.
Very striking. — Tariq Ali
An epic picaresque that’s equal parts Canterbury Tales and Mahabharata—exuberantly excessive and captivating. Huge ambition, abundantly realized.
Without a doubt the most original, imaginatively profound, and elegant writer of fiction in Indonesia today: its brightest and most unexpected meteorite. Pramoedya Ananta Toer has found a successor. — Benedict Anderson
A vivacious translation of a comic but emotionally powerful Indonesian novel.
Kurniawan’s story of an undead woman had morphed into the story of modern Indonesia, an epic novel critics are more wont to compare to One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Canterbury Tales.
As translated by Annie Tucker, Kurniawan’s prose is lucid and occasionally lyrical but never showy. — Anthony Domestico
Kurniawan does not merely traffic skillfully in magic realism; his Halimunda — like García Márquez’s Macondo and Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County — lets him show how the currents of history catch, whirl, carry away and sometimes drown people. — John Fasman
Both Man Tiger and Beauty Is a Wound constitute a retort from the present to the dark times, while also acknowledging that the dark times may not yet be over. Against the killings of those years and the collective amnesia used to blank out the fate of the victims—a kind of second death, as it were—Kurniawan’s fiction summons its legions of ghosts.
— Siddhartha Deb
Gracefully translated by Annie Tucker, the writing is evocative and muscular, with particularly spicy descriptions and some good wry humor. — Sarah Lyall
It’s an astonishing, polyphonic epic, a melange of satire, grotesquerie, and allegory that incorporates everything from world history to local folk talks. — Phillip Pantuso
An arresting portrait of Indonesia’s struggle for nationhood, delights in obscenity: no topic is spared from its bloodthirsty brand of satire. — Gillian Terzis
Refreshingly, Kurniawan puts value on literature as entertainment, and his books are certainly that. — Deborah Smith