'Semen, blood and excrement': the Indonesian novel that's like story-telling on acid
The author has conjured up a whole imaginary city, Halimunda, that's a worthy heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Macondo or William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. In Halimunda, the layering of influences and sources – Hindu, animist, Muslim, European
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Prize-winning Indonesian novelist Eka Kurniawan isn’t for the squeamish. Packed with semen, menstrual blood, excrement and urine, his tour-de-force, Beauty is a Wound (originally published as Cinta itu Luka ) isn’t “la-di-da” chic-lit, an “adultery-in-bourgeois-Hampstead” novella or Euro-crime noir. Instead, Kurniawan hurls his readers deep into the heart of Java, reminding us along the way that the world’s most densely-populated island (one hundred and fifty million souls and counting on an area the size of England. The novel is like story-telling on acid. Densely-plotted and overflowing with characters and incidents, Beauty is a Wound is also studded with pithy one-liners. Witness the gangster Memen Gedeng’s frank assessment of mankind: “Every human is a mammal, just like a dog, and walks on two legs like a chicken. Moreover, Kurniawan’s Java is more than a mere backdrop. The author has conjured up a whole imaginary city, Halimunda, that’s a worthy heir to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo or William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. High hopes for first-ever Indonesian author vying for Man Booker glory The gorgeous, mixed-race Ayu Dewi, (the product of an incestuous liaison) stands at the heart of the novel. Having reclaimed her home and more importantly, her trusted deaf-mute maid, Rosina, she bathes and then devours a vast amount of food after which she belches and farts: “…emitting a rumbling sound out of her asshole, the kind of fart that can’t be... Book review: Eka Kurniawan’s second novel Man Tiger is arresting and lyrical Throughout it all, Dewi Ayu remains an implacable and voluptuous presence. Indeed, given the continuing dominance of pan-Asian faces (from Indonesia’s Pevita Pearce to the Philippines’ Anne Curtis Smith) across Southeast Asian film and TV screens, Dewi Ayu’s enduring allure is perhaps unsurprising. Take, for example, how she refers to her own daughters: “They left as soon as they learned how to unbutton a man’s fly. For Dewi Ayu, with her striking blue eyes and fair skin, love is little more than a commodity, something she trades in order to survive. Overcoming her distaste early on in life, she forces herself to submit to the Japanese prison camp commandant in return for medicine. Years later and by now the town’s most sought-after whore, she knows that her personal stoicism has saved her from the heartache and pain that has assailed her daughters and their various paramours. Whilst Kurniawan has been compared to Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the resolutely leftist story-teller of the Sukarno Era and its terrible aftermath, the parallels aren’t appropriate. Kurniawan celebrates and revels in the humanism of what he’s created whereas Pramoedya, a committed and unflaggingly dogmatic ideologue, was trapped within his obsessions. It’s the humanism at a time of worrying religious conservatism that makes Beauty is a Wound so admirable, so extraordinary and also (most importantly) so subversive. With the sole exception of Dewi Ayu, the rest of the characters are in the thrall of their emotions. When they fall in love, the world literally stops. For example, with Ayu Dewi’s second daughter, the manipulative Allamanda, the tables are turned when she falls in love with the captivating communist activist Kliwon:. “When she began to realise that she had truly fallen in love, she was horrified that she had been conquered and tried to kill those amorous feelings by thinking of the most appalling ways to make the man fall at her feet. MORE KARIM RASLAN: The chick-flick that shines a light on Indonesia’s progress.
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Publications. Neumark, David, and William L. Wascher (2008). Minimum Wages. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Fallick, Bruce C., Michael Lettau, and William L ...
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