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Beauty Is a Wound

Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
Length: 16 hrs and 28 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The English language debut of Indonesia's rising star. Compulsively listenable, Beauty Is a Wound combines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humour, and romance in an astonishing epic title, 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 - folktales 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.

©2015 Eka Kurniwan (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"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)

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Too much rape for me

What did you like best about Beauty Is a Wound? What did you like least?

I liked the complexity of the story and originality but ultimately I had to give up on it a few hours from the end. There was just this relentlessness to the ill-judgement and cruelty of the characters so that I lost all interest.
There was also a huge amount of rape. It often feels like every woman in the story is at some time raped, killed or driven to suicide.
In general too much misery for me at this point but I don't want to condemn it as a bad story. Just to inform that the content is very difficult most of the time.

Has Beauty Is a Wound put you off other books in this genre?

Not really

What about Jonathan Davis’s performance did you like?

It was very good. He doesn't put on ridiculous high pitched voices for female characters the way a lot of male narrators do.

Did Beauty Is a Wound inspire you to do anything?

It inspired me to stop listening to beauty is a wound.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
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More than a ghost story

In Beauty is a wound, Eka Kurniawan chronicles the 20th century history of Pangandaran, which he refers to as Halimunda. It is experienced through the eyes of four sisters entangled in a drama that spans four generations. The gruesome account is simply peppered with depictions of rape, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, massacres and black magic. However, at the same time it is full of love and beauty, depicting the tragic history of a cursed family and his beloved hometown Pangandaran.

As a forceful debut, the novel has been compared to other international works of fiction in particular for its magic realism. Of course, Shame by Salman Rushdie comes to mind with the three Shakeel sisters in the remote border town of Q (Quetta). Magic is intertwined with the bloody history of power play of strongmen. In both novels, the women are the stronger and richer characters. However, another Indian author also comes to mind in the detailed and sometimes comical description of village characters: R.K. Narayan’s short stories in the fictional village of Malgudi. Of course other novels tackle the topic of depictions of fishermen driven out of business by capitalism forming communist unions like Kurt Kläber’s Rote Zora und ihre Bande.

However, as Eka has repeatedly pointed out at international book festivals, most of the ingredients of the book are homegrown and influenced by Indonesian and Japanese pulp fiction and comics. This becomes particular clear in the last chapters dominated by a revengeful ghost. It is this ending and framing story line that feels somewhat forced, or at least incoherent. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been written first, as Eka was still trying to find his unique and multifaceted style while believing to write a ghost or horror story. It developed into something much richer.