Saturday, April 23, 2016

Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan - Book Review

I was pretty excited when this book arrived in the mail, after a long break from reading. And the previous two reads being non-fiction. Beauty is a wound is 'beautifully' written by Eka Kurniawan, a forty year old Indonesian Writer.

I was very intrigued by the description of the book itself! The cover is a work of art too, with the picture of a Carrion Flower (A flower that smells like rotten meat), which totally does with the title and story.

The epic novel beauty is a wound combines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humour and romance in a sweeping saga. The novel begins with the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, then a Dutch colony, at the time of World War II. The beautiful half-Dutch, half-Indonesian 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
Eka Kurniawan was born in Tasikmalaya, Indonesia, in 1975 and graduated from Faculty of Philosophy, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. He writes novels and short stories, as well as non-fiction pieces.


The book takes you through the totally abnormal, intriguing life of Dewi Ayu. It's hard to imagine the things happening in her life, and yet she has a very humorous take on things. The Indonesian point of view and history during the war is totally skipped because of the importance given to all the other countries. And I was in shock page after page to read through the events. Eka has described everything in such detail, that it's not very difficult to create a mental picture of each scene, as if you were watching a movie. One has to read the book for themselves to see the satire, tragedy, romance and comedy all blended into the pages. Grab your copy here. I would not say that it's a unputdownable book like a Sidney Sheldon. It's a 450+ paged book, and because I was soaking in and trying to understand everything, it took me quite sometime to finish reading it. The events that take place are sometimes really gruesome, sometimes astonishing, and it takes time to digest what's happening, for instance when Dewi rises from the dead after 21 years. But I'm glad I did read it!