Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Country: Indonesia Discussion Date: The week of November 3rd.
Hey everyone! So I finally found myself in a position with enough time and focus to get this book club rolling.
The book for Indonesia is “Beauty is a Wound” by Eka Kurniawan, one of Indonesia's most celebrated authors. This book is a novel that is part folklore part historical fiction. It is both witty, intense and at times grotesque. This combination of genre and subject matter has helped me make sense of the cultural twists and turns I’ve been experiencing while living here.
The story follows Dewi Ayu, the daughter of a Dutchman and his native concubine. She is fiercely independent and manages to maintain control of her life and identity even though she spends most of her life working as a prostitute. Her life spans across the Dutch occupation of the islands, through WWII and the following Japanese occupation, to the declaration of Indonesian independence and the guerrilla warfare that took place as various peoples struggled to unite.
It took the first few chapters to feel immersed in the novel but once you are in it, it is hard to put down! The writing style is extremely straight forward and blunt with harsh language and themes of violence and sex that are startling at times. This speaks true to my experience talking with my Indonesian friends. They speak and act with an incredible combination of ritualistic yet bawdy behavior that I recognize in the characters in this story. Wonderfully hilarious and incredibly tragic at the same time.
For those of you who would like to read along with me here is a link to the book on amazon, although I would suggest and encourage you to first search for the novel at your local library or book store!
If you want to know more about the history and culture of Indonesia and have more knowledge and context of the characters in "Beauty is a Wound". I would suggest reading
“Indonesia Etc.” by Elizabeth Pisani. This is a journalistic non-fiction approach to looking at the culture of Indonesia. Keep in mind that this book is not written by a native Indonesian but rather a woman who spent many years living and working in the country.
I'm excited to hear your thoughts and plan on publishing a discussion post at the end of the month!
If you plan on reading along, please comment below so I can keep you up to date.
P.S. This book contains descriptions of rape and sexual violence. If these are triggering to you I would suggest waiting to join in on our next book.