Beauty Is A Wound

Book / Novel

by Eka Kurniawan
Author: Annie Tucker

Format: Paperback, English
384 page(s)
ISBN/ISBN13: 0811223639/978-0811223638
Published Sep 08, 2015 by New Directions

View on Goodreads | Google Books
Buy Now from Amazon *
Also see Cantik itu Luka

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.1

  1. New Directions 

I thoroughly enjoyed Beauty is a Wound—it is original, absorbing, funny and moving.
Suroor Alikhan in Beauty is a Wound: Eka Kurniawan (Personal Blog, Feb 01, 2020)
It is precisely these distinctive local-cultural contours that, for non-Indonesian readers in particular, intensify fascination surrounding the challenging journey into the core of the Indonesian enigma.
Giora Eliraz in Review: A historical novel? (Inside Indonesia, Jul 17, 2018)
Though the novel was unsettling, I found it thoroughly entertaining. Kurniawan delivers surprises at every turn. His boisterous language is almost theatrical.
Tulika Bahadur in Eka Kurniawan’s Sweeping and Crackling “Beauty is a Wound”: Magic Realism from Indonesia (On Art and Aesthetics, Sep 21, 2017)
Eka Kurniawan is a Southeast Asian storyteller with a magnificent and effortless grasp of his material. He rejects the prissy and bourgeois. Instead, he wallows in the humane and the earthy. He makes us laugh, gasp and cry – often in rapid succession. This novel is as close to an all-night wayang as you’ll ever get. This is the real thing and I would have given anything to have been the author.
Karim Raslan in ‘Semen, blood and excrement’: the Indonesian novel that’s like story-telling on acid (South China Morning Post, Oct 28, 2016)
Despite its comic and satirical overtones, ″Beauty is a wound″ should not be seen as a light-hearted read. Satire is capable of urging a society to revalue its history and give public account – something that is desperately needed in modern Indonesia.
Sherif Abdel Samad in A hidden literary gem (Qantara, Jun 13, 2016)
Indeed, the novel insists, in the tale it tells and in its telling of the tale, that it is in the unsightly and gaping exposure of what underlies the surface where what we should call beauty is truly to be found. Comparisons to other world authors that play up the beauty of Eka’s writing may be harmless enough—as long as they don’t prevent us from pressing on to the raw flesh beneath.
Tiffany Tsao in In Suspicion of Beauty: On Eka Kurniawan (Sydney Review of Books, Mar 18, 2016)
It is a complex, challenging, and very original novel in which the dead go home for dinner, ghosts are as commonplace a nuisance as mosquitos, and women marry dogs.
Tim Hannigan in Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan, translated by Annie Tucker (Asian Review of Books, Oct 13, 2015)
Beauty is a Wound is, on the whole, a successful work, one which most readers would enjoy as an introduction to Indonesian literature. Kurniawan’s novel taps into world literature while keeping unique features of the writer’s homeland.
Tony Malone in ‘Beauty is a Wound’ by Eka Kurniawan (Review) (Personal Blog, Oct 12, 2015)
In “Beauty Is a Wound” and “Man Tiger” — a slimmer work — his real subject is unruly, untameable and often unquenchable desires.
Jon Fasman in Sunday Book Review: ‘Beauty Is a Wound’ and ‘Man Tiger’ by Eka Kurniawan (The New York Times, Sep 09, 2015)

*) An affiliate link. If you buy the book through this link, we may earn a small commission.