Publishers Weekly Review: Beauty Is a Wound

At the beginning of this English-language debut from Indonesian author Kurniawan, Dewi Ayu, who was once the most respected prostitute in the fictional coastal town of Halimunda, rises from her grave after being dead for two decades. She’s returned to pay a visit to her fourth daughter, Beauty, who is famously ugly. What follows is an unforgettable, all-encompassing epic of Indonesian history, magic, and murder, jumping back to Dewi Ayu’s birth before World War II, in the last days of Dutch rule, and continuing through the Japanese occupation and the mass killings following the attempted coup by the Indonesian Communist Party in the mid-1960s. Kurniawan centers his story on Dewi Ayu and her four daughters and their families. Readers witness Dewi Ayu’s imprisonment in the jungle during the war, a pig turning into a person, a young Communist named Comrade Kliwon engaging in guerrilla warfare, and a boy cheating in school by asking ghosts for help. Indeed, the combination of magic, lore, and pivotal events reverberating through generations will prompt readers to draw parallels between Kurniawan’s Halimunda and García Márquez’s Macondo. But Kurniawan’s characters are all destined for despair and sorrow, and the result is a darker and more challenging read than One Hundred Years of Solitude. There is much physical and sexual violence, but none of it feels gratuitous—every detail seems essential to depicting Indonesia’s tragic past. 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. (Sept.)

From Publishers Weekly, 8 June 2015.

Introduction to ‘Graffiti In The Toilet’

by Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, “Indonesia” Vol. 86

At the age of only thirty-two, the Sundanese Eka Kurniawan is without any doubt the most original, imaginative, profound, and elegant writer of fiction in Indonesia today. If anyone has a chance of filling the aerie in Indonesian literature left empty with the death of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, it is he. It is no accident that his first book, published in 1999, Pramoedya Ananta Toer dan Sastra Realisme Sosialis, is by far the best work, admiring and critical at the same time, on the master written by an Indonesian. Traces of Pram are visible everywhere in his fiction, yet Eka, born into another culture and in another, gloomier epoch, writes in an inimitable manner, which is immediately recognizable in any paragraph. Over the last six years, he has published two outstanding novels, the enormous if unwieldy Cantik itu … Luka (Beauty is … a Wound) in 2002, and the fiercely dense Lelaki Harimau (Man-Tiger) in 2004. In 2005 he published his first collection of short stories, Cinta Tak Ada Mati (No Death for Love), and, in the same year, a second collection, Gelak Sedih dan Cerita-cerita Lainnya (Sad Laughter and Other Tales), from which the story translated below has been drawn.
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Bi wa Kizu and the Image of Cultural Globalization in Contemporary Japan

A Case Study of an Indonesian Novel Translation

by Indah S. Pratidina,

Japan’s role in globalizing Asia has been widely recognized. Ever since the 1990’s, Japan has been exporting waves of it’s cultural products such as anime or animated films, television dramas, music, manga or comics, novels, and so on. These spreads of cultural products across the borders of Asia have sprung new hope for Japan’s relationship with other Asian countries. Through the consumption of Japan’s cultural products, it can promote cultural dialogue, and hopefully Japan can overcome its unfortunate history with the rest of Asia, especially regarding to the World War II.
However, globalization not only demands an integration of cultural diversity in the global community. It also reflects peoples’ (nations’) needs to develop a strong self or cultural identity (ies). In this light, one can see that Japan is not only an exporter of media. Rather, Japan has also been receiving various media from other Asian countries; such as Korea with its television dramas.
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