Beauty Is a Wound
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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.
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.