Indonesia’s shining lit star
Meet the winner of the first World Readers Award.
THIRTEEN years after breaking into Indonesia’s literary firmament with his d ebut Bahasa Indonesia novel, Cantik Itu Luka ( Beauty Is A Wound), author Eka Kurniawan makes his way onto the world ’ s stage: The English language version of the book received the inaugural World Read ers Award on Tuesd ay and his sec ond novel, Lelaki Harimau ( M an Tiger) ger) was short-listed for the 2016 Man Book I International Prize a c ouple of weeks earlier.
The World Read ers Aw ward , organised by the Hong Kong and Aust tralia- based Asia Pac ific Writers and Translators association, was given out in Hong K Kong. According to the award’s website, world read ersaward.com, Eka, who c ould nott attend the ceremony, said is a delivered sta atement that he was “happy, humbled and honoured ”.
The website notes the judges’ also paid tribute to his translator, Annie Tucker. In a statement published by Pen America, Tucker describes Beauty Is A Wo Wound as “a distinctive West Javanese voice that will feel fresh and new to readers, evokingg multiple local influences inc lud ing the baw wd y wit and epic scope of wayang theatre e, the folk tales for whic h the region is famo ous, and Indonesian horror and martial arts genre fiction.” ( Beauty Is A Wound is reviewed on page 14.)
O pening the novel is ana astound ing sc ene about a prostitute named Dewi Ayu, w who rises from her grave after bei ing d ead for two d ec ad es to pay a visit to her fourth – ugly – d aug ghter named Cantik ( Beautiful l). The novel c entres on a famil ly saga that moves alongsid e the e c ountry’s history – from Dutch rule and the Japan nese occupation to the 1965 m mass killings.
Many in Indonesia’s literary scene have spotted t the influence of Salman Rushd ie, Gabriel García Márquez, Mark Twain and , most signific antly, Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer in Eka’s debut work.
“Some c ompare me to Pram [ Pramoedya] and García Márquez. Some have also mentioned [ Nikolai] Gogol and Herman Melville. To be honest, I have been influenced by all of them. I have read their works sinc e I was in c ollege,” he says in an interview.
Renowned Indonesian scholar Benedict AndAn erson praisedpraise Eka in an influential article, saying that, “It is nic e that after half a century, Pramoedya Ananta Toer has found a suc c essor.”
Having extensively read Pramoed ya’s works, Eka, in a critical view, believes that
Lit star: Eka struggled to get his debut novel published but since then, it has taken off like a meteor. — handout