Beauty Is a Wound


By Eka Kurniawan

cover image of Beauty Is a Wound

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The English-language debut of Indonesia's rising star.

Compulsively readable, Beauty Is a Wound combines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humour, and romance in an astonishing epic novel, in which the beautiful Indo prostitute Dewi Ayu and her four daughters are beset by every monstrosity.

Kurniawan's gleefully grotesque hyperbole is 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, followed by three decades of Suharto's despotic rule. Drawing on local sources—folk tales and the all-night shadow puppet plays, with their bawdy wit—and inspired by Melville and Gogol, Beauty Is a Wound is passionate and ironic, exuberant and confronting. Hailed as 'the next Pramoedya', Eka Kurniawan is an exciting new voice in contemporary literature.

Eka Kurniawan was born in 1975 and is the author of novels, short stories, essays, movie scripts, and graphic novels. He has been described by the Jakarta Post as 'one of the few influential writers in Indonesia.'

Annie Tucker won a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Award for this translation.

'Beauty is a Wound is like nothing I've read before...The multi-layered narrative reads like an old-school gothic folk tale, full of dark magic, hyperbole and gratuitous violence.' Guardian 

'Without a doubt the most original, imaginatively profound, and elegant writer of fiction in Indonesia today: its brightest and most unexpected meteorite.' New Left Review

'A vivacious translation of a comic but emotionally powerful Indonesian novel.' Pen America

'Very striking.' Tariq Ali

'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.' Publishers Weekly

'Beauty is a Wound is an epic of a kind that could only come from the pen of an Indonesian...Kurniawan's creative ambition and scope are traditional in some senses, but his deeply strange work is profoundly original.' Australian

'So sorrowful, so savage, so freaking weird...Densely textured, complex in time scheme and epic in scope...The author's intelligence breathes through the lines of the page, and he is equally capable of delicacy as decadence.' Saturday Paper

'Beauty Is a Wound is an astonishing work of fiction, a crazy, dream-like tale of one woman who goes to remarkable lengths in order to survive.' Weekend Edition

'Beauty Is a Wound draws on history, myth and Kurniawan's considerable skill as a story teller to deliver an unforgettable tale...A compelling read.' Salty Popcorn

'Romps along with wilful disregard for the niceties of taste and decorum. Perhaps that's only as it should be, as one comes to grips with aspects of Indonesian history that most often lie buried beneath a veneer of restraint and good manners.' ANZ Litlovers

'Vast and ambitious...[An] impressive work which paints an evocative and ghostly portrayal of mythical and historical times past.' Otago Daily Times

'Kurniawan's novel taps into world literature while keeping unique features of the writer's homeland.' Tony's Reading List

'[A] huge book full of ghosts and violence and fun...It's quite unlike anything I've ever read.' Mark Rubbo on ArtsHub

Beauty Is a Wound