Beauty is a Wound is a 2002 book written by Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan. It has been recently translated into english. It’s a book that shouts CRAZY from the word go and goes on into a roller coaster ride. It combines prostitutes, ghosts, magic realism, and love stories all put together in a swirling cocktail which is set against a background of Indonesia’s tumultuous past.
The book starts with the story of Dewi Ayu, who is a prostitute and good one at that who also makes a good living out of it. Dewi Ayu’s extraordinary introduction is enough to hook into the book from the word go. She has four daughters, the youngest of who is named Beauty. While the first three daughters are of unparalleled beauty, Beauty herself, ironically, is one hell of an ugly kid.
The story moves on to a multitude of characters and character background stories which are intricately fleshed out and runs around with the speed of a river gushing through while simultaneously creating more lively and voracious tributaries. The characters flung unto throes of passion and some fantastic situations which would either make you feel disgusted or laugh at the sheer absurdity and audacity of it. If this story had occurred to Jeffery Archer, he would have been tempted to make a five part book out of it. That’s how deep the multi layered threads of the stories are.
In the hands of a lesser writer, the reader would have been lost in the multiple threads and be overwhelmed by them. But Eka Kurniawan skillfully puts everything in a nice little swirl. While there is no comparison to Salman Rushdie’s Chidren of Midnight, the joy I felt on reading some parts of this book was same as that of Rushdie’s.
Be forewarned though, this is not a book for those who are squeamish. There are some sequences which would make your toes curl. But for those who are connoisseurs of good books and possess strong stomach, this is a treat to read all the way. A highly recommended book.