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In Suspicion of Beauty: On Eka Kurniawan

Book Review / Review

In this article:
Beauty Is A Wound

Written by Tiffany Tsao, originally published in Sydney Review of Books

Mar 18, 2016

When the English-language editions of Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound and Man Tiger were published last year, they were greeted with great critical acclaim. Beauty is a Wound made it into the New York Times’ annual list of the top 100 notable books for 2015. As a scholar and translator of modern Indonesian literature, I was naturally thrilled. Not since Pramoedya Ananta Toer has an Indonesian writer received this kind of attention from the international literary community. What I have found particularly interesting is that reviewers have consistently described Eka (who prefers to be called so) in terms of other world literary ‘greats’. Alighting on the novels’ fantastic elements, most critics have drawn parallels with Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie. Others have also detected notes of Faulkner, of Twain, of Gogol and Melville. Certainly, allusions to internationally renowned authors were not entirely absent from Indonesian reviewers’ remarks when Beauty is a Wound was first published in 2002. (One of Media Indonesia’s reviews mentioned Márquez and Kafka; the literary monthly Horison made reference to the ‘canonical novels of European and Latin American literature’.) But where such comparisons in the Indonesian-language reviews could be counted on one hand, in reviews of the English-language translations they have been the norm.

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