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Beauty Is a Wound

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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  8,053 ratings  ·  1,431 reviews
The epic novel Beauty Is a Wound combines history, satire, family tragedy, legend, humor, and romance in a sweeping polyphony. The beautiful Indo 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 you ...more
Paperback, 470 pages
Published September 2015 by New Directions (first published December 12th 2002)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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Rowena
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asia
"One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years."- Eka Kurniawan, Beauty is a Wound

This book has one of the best, most memorable opening sentences I've ever read. And it definitely set the stage for one of the most compelling and engrossing stories I've read in a long time. Over 500 pages of prose and I enjoyed every page. Even without having any knowledge of the history of Indonesia, I loved it.

Indonesia seems to have had a turbulent hist
...more
Kevin Ansbro
"One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years."

Now that's the kind of beginning that will grab my attention!
If you like the magical realism of Márquez (as I do), then this could be your cup of Colombian coffee - although it's set in Indonesia (I know. It's an idiom that I drove into a cul-de-sac).

Dewi Ayu, the village prostitute and misanthrope, gives birth to a hideous little baby and dies twelve days later, without setting eyes on
...more
Nicole~
Eka Kurniawan, said to be following in the giant steps of Indonesia's most famous author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer (known for his anti-colonial and social realism tetralogy, Buru Quartet), is a popular literary young blood who could be as heavily influenced by a host of literary icons. His novel Beauty is a Wound is a 20th century Indonesian historiography told in the rich folklore of her culture; in gothicism that awakens memories of Lafcadio Hearn's chilling Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strang ...more
Perry
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating Allegorical Tale of Indonesia f/k/a Dutch East Indies
If you like tales of political/social allegory, such as Animal Farm and One Hundred Years of Solitude, that exercise your brain, without overly challenging to the point of losing intrigue, the kind of story in which you delight in discovering (or trying to) the metaphorical meaning of actions, characters and things within, then I recommend you put this on your list of books to check out.

This brilliant novel reflects and critici
...more
Amanda
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
This falls somewhere between a 2.5 and a 3.5. When I first started it I thought I was going to love it. It had many shades of One Hundred Years of Solitude. There were many things I did really like. The historical backdrop of Indonesia was fascinating and I ended up googling lots of things to learn more about the history. A lot of this book is political satire which never really works for me. I found some of the characters to be fascinating and I loved their stories but in the end there was far ...more
Missy J
description

Beauty is a Wound is the debut novel of Eka Kurniawan, which was originally published in 2002. This is the second time for me to read a work by Kurniawan (earlier this year I read Lelaki Harimau also known as Man Tiger and it is one of my favorite books). Compared to Man Tiger, Beauty is a Wound is a grand and quite over-ambitious satire. With the historic backdrop stretching across the end of Dutch colonialism of the Indies to the end of the 20th century, Kurniawan tells the story of an
...more
Viv JM
DNF @ 40%

This is a very rapey book and I really don't want to continue any further, specifically after a scene where a woman, after being gang raped on multiple occasions, is then consumed by lust for her "rescuer". No. Just no. I get that this book is satirical and allegorical and symbolic, but still. The author doesn't graphically describe the rape scenes but there are just so many and I am really not convinced that they are necessary to the plot. It's a shame, because I really liked the begi
...more
Hugh
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this for a group discussion this month in the 21st Century Literature group, and I don't want to say anything that will preempt that discussion at this stage, so I'll try to keep this review fairly short.

This was the Javanese author's first novel, published in Indonesia in 2002. It is an epic magic realist folder in which events in the small fictional coastal town are to some extent a microcosm of the history of Indonesia since the 1930s.

At its heart it is a family story, and at its hear
...more
Karen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marianne
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“It’s true that oppressed people only have one tool of resistance: run amok. And if I have to tell you, revolution is nothing more than a collective running amok, organized by one particular party”

Beauty is a Wound is one of only two (so far) works by Indonesian journalist, writer and designer, Eka Kurniawan that have been translated into English. Twelve days after she gave birth to her fourth daughter (ironically named Beauty), Dewi Ayu, even at fifty-two still the most beautiful and desired pr
...more
jeremy
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, translation
a beautiful, stirring, and powerful epic of indonesian politics and family, eka kurniawan's beauty is a wound (cantik itu luka) must surely be considered as one of the year's finest works of translated fiction. sweeping across decades and generations, beauty is a wound is a violent, enchanted saga, compelling on account of both its impressive breadth and storytelling verve. kurniawan, an indonesian journalist and author, published this remarkable novel when he was 27 years old (released in engli ...more
Brianna
Sep 12, 2015 rated it liked it
There is so much rape in this book. I'm not necessarily averse to that but I have questions about how and why sexual violence functions as both plot point and constantly revisited method of characterization, as nearly all of the women in this novel - both primary and secondary- are defined and characterized by their brutal and repetitive violations.

The novel was often beautiful and really well written. I can understand why it has drawn so many glowing comparisons to One Hundred Years of Solitud
...more
Monica
This was an unexpectedly good book. Interesting, riveting, surprising, and by the end, all consuming. I listened to this on audible because at this time of the year, reading time is a premium. Simply put, I loved it and Jonathan Davis did a very fine job at narration. Not sure what I was anticipating, but this book took hold of me and would not let go. I would go so far as to call it epic. Part folklore, part Indonesian history, part magical realism, part allegory, part (fictional) memoir, it wa ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Indonesian History as Fact and Fable

"One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years." Not your usual opening for a novel, is it? Dewi Ayu, formerly the most sought-after prostitute in the district of Halimunda, walks back to her house, takes a bath, and is reunited with her daughter Beauty, who she had prayed would be born ugly—as indeed she most certainly was. After a few dozen pages, the action slips back in time to Dewi Ayu's childhood,
...more
E. H. Nathasia
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have NO choice but to give it a 5. There is probably less than 3% of pages where I rush through my reading, but 97% of the plot and its characters intrigues me. The plot is ridiculous to the point that I have to close my book many, many times for me to take a breather, to take it all in before continuing with my reading. You really need to understand the mysticism of the culture and to be open to all possibilities before you read this. Otherwise you might not be able to accept what the writer ...more
Cher
Sep 26, 2015 rated it did not like it
1.5 stars - I didn't like it.

After an incredible opening paragraph, this one has begun to just disappoint and bore. DNF'ing around 75 pages / 15% in. I have had my fill of rape, incest and bestiality and am choosing to move on to another book on my never-ending TBR list. This one's just not for me.

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First Sentence: One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years.
Alice Lippart
An excellent and original tale. Lots of history, a bit of magical realism and fascinating characters.
Joachim Stoop
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In 100 years this book will (still) be considered an important piece in our literary history.
This is epic, compelling, hard, beautiful. It deserves the same recognition as A Hundred years of solitude by GG Marquez & Voltaire's Zadig. Top!
...more
Huda
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it

Let me get this straight: Beauty is a wound, because it fosters ill-will and causes chaos among men?

Because men are such animals?

What I don’t want to do is look at this story with the eyes of a haughty modernist, because this is meant to be an epic, and anyway its universe is not set in the rules of logic.

But mannnnnnnnn, what is with all the zoophilia and raping and all the ‘making love’ and all those lol-worthy ghosts, and I cannot even be done with listing all the depravities in this book.
...more
Judy
I first learned of this novel from the BTBA (Best Translated Book Award) Fiction long list for 2016. I bought it because it is a fictional account of Indonesian history and because I liked the title. It was the last book I read in 2016. Filled with wild and crazy characters, featuring colonial oppression and the rape of natural resources and as well as a mixed race descendant of a Dutch East India Company trader, it covers war, communism, slaughter, rape, unstable politics, indigenous customs, ...more
James
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've got to say that I don't usually read books that could be described as this one is in the Goodreads "Description"! That is, one with as much violence--murders, massacres, rapes, etc. BUT, as hackneyed as it sounds, I could not put it down. I can't totally explain why, except to say that the writing is so amazing you don't want to miss any of it. And my burgeoning interest in translated fiction in general is part of it too. The fact that it won the major translation award recently supports my ...more
A
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
3.5 stars. Impressively ambitious in its scope, especially considering Kurniawan was just 26 when this was originally published (in early 2002). By comparison, Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez were both 40 when their generation-spanning fabulist masterpieces first appeared on shelves.

I bring up Garcia Marquez and Allende not arbitrarily but because magical realism (whatever that means anymore!) is unquestionably the main influence on Kurniawan's 470pp charmer (as you no doubt realized f
...more
Monique
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was epic. It was full of violence, rape, mass murder, incest, bestiality and brutality. The narrative spans over many generations of the one family and isn't always linear. I loved this about the book - the complex family trees, the magic realism, the twists and surprises in the plot... right from the very first line I was sucked in to what is essentially a ghost story:

"One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years."

The combina
...more
Caroline
A terrific read. Recommended.

The blurb says a prostitute who has been dead for twenty years rises from the grave, so you know there’s going to be some fantasy involved. What I didn’t expect was a very accomplished layering of a turn-the-pages plot and wild characters, and sixty years of Indonesian history. You never get a lecture or paragraphs of historical background. Events just show you what it meant to be ruled by the Dutch, then to be incarcerated in a Japanese camp, then to experience the
...more
Michael Livingston
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was ok
I found this a real slog - I'm not a massive fan of the sprawling Marquez-esque approach to story-telling, and this is firmly in that vein, complete with ghosts, bullet proof men and more from the magic-realism playbook. An interconnected web of characters in an Indonesian city live, marry and die with 20th Century Indonesian history as a backdrop. I also found myself exhausted by the abuse of the (always young and beautiful) women in the story by the (always old and tough) men - there are innum ...more
Andrea
May 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
A BIG NO! There is sexual assault on every freaking page! I don't care if it's fiction, fantasy or whatever. I refuse to read about it as a part of some sick plot!
Meg
"One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years."


cw: sexual violence

Beauty is a Wound has a great opening line. Eka Kurniawan is an ambitious writer, and similarly to how I felt when I read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, it amazes me that someone around my age (he must’ve been 25 or 26 when he wrote Beauty is a Wound) could pen something so sprawling and self-assured. Kurniawan possesses an impermeable confidence as he wryly narrates e
...more
Liyana
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Waiting after the discussion to understand it clearly and explore the layers surrounding this piece.
Bookworm
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Maybe I might have liked this better if I had more knowledge on Indonesia? When I heard about this book, I was intrigued about reading a book that takes place at a very tumultuous time in Indonesian history (from pre-World War II though its independence plus the aftermath). It sounded like a grand epic that would be perfect for a weekend of reading and initially I was drawn into the book.
 
The book starts off with the famous, beautiful prostitute Dewi Ayu rising from the dead. Well, okay! What a
...more
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Eka Kurniawan was born in Tasikmalaya in 1975 and completed his studies in the Faculty of Philosophy at Gadjah Mada University. He has been described as the “brightest meteorite” in Indonesia’s new literary firmament, the author of two remarkable novels which have brought comparisons to Salman Rushdie, Gabriel García Márquez and Mark Twain; the English translations of these novels were both publis ...more

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