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Indonesian Authors in Translation

Beauty is a Wound
by Eka Kurniawan (Author) and Annie Tucker (Translator)

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 young nation’s troubled past: the rapacious offhand greed of colonialism; the chaotic struggle for independence; the 1965 mass murders of perhaps a million “Communists,” followed by three decades of Suharto’s despotic rule.

Beauty Is a Wound astonishes from its opening line: One afternoon on a weekend in May, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years. . . . Drawing on local sources—folk tales and the all-night shadow puppet plays, with their bawdy wit and epic scope—and inspired by Melville and Gogol, Kurniawan’s distinctive voice brings something luscious yet astringent to contemporary literature.

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Man Tiger: A Novel
Eka Kurniawan (Author) and Labodalih Sembiring (Translator)

A wry, affecting tale set in a small town on the Indonesian coast, Man Tiger tells the story of two interlinked and tormented families and of Margio, a young man ordinary in all particulars except that he conceals within himself a supernatural female white tiger. The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being. An explosive act of violence follows, and its mysterious cause is unraveled as events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.

Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel announces the arrival of a powerful new voice on the global literary stage.

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The Rainbow Troops: A Novel
Andrea Hirata (Author) and Angie Kilbane (Translator)

Published in Indonesia in 2005, The Rainbow Troops, Andrea Hirata’s closely autobiographical debut novel, sold more than five million copies, shattering records. Now it promises to captivate audiences around the globe.

Ikal is a student at the poorest village school on the Indonesian island of Belitong, where graduating from sixth grade is considered remarkable. His school is under constant threat of closure. Ikal and his friends–a group nicknamed the Rainbow Troops–face threats from every angle: skeptical government officials, greedy corporations, deepening poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and their own low self-confidence.

But the students also have hope, which comes in the form of two extraordinary teachers, and Ikal’s education in and out of the classroom is an uplifting one. We root for him as he defies the island’s tin mine officials. We meet his first love, the unseen girl who sells chalk from behind a shop screen, whose pretty hands capture Ikal’s heart. We cheer for Lintang, the class’s barefoot math genius, as he bests the students of the mining corporation’s school in an academic challenge. Above all, we gain an intimate acquaintance with the customs and people of the world’s largest Muslim society

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This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet)
Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Author) and Max Lane (Translator, Afterword)

Protagonist Minke is due all the honors of a Dutch high school graduate in his native Java. Though the 20th century is just dawning, he is a champion of science, technology, and openness amongst the many ethnic levels of Java’s colonial society. Himself a Native, Minke marries Annelies, a Mixed-Blood daughter of an astute concubine, one whose owner has left her alone to develop and manage a vast business. When Minke moves in with Annelies and her mother, they form a family at once perfect within yet challenged from without by racial and legal threats that eventually destroy them all. Toer’s novel is a beautiful archetype of the evils inherent in colonial and racially stratified societies. The novel was written during Toer’s 14 years as a political prisoner, and his continuing city arrest in Jakarta is testimony to its power. Such extraordinary struggle has produced a novel worthy of its author’s sacrifice. ~ Paul E. Hutchison, Pequea, Pa., Library Journal

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