Search and Hit Enter

‘Beauty is a Wound’ among Literary Hub’s best translated novels of the decade


Jakarta  /  Sun, November 17, 2019  /  05:06 pm

Eka Kurniawan’s critically acclaimed contemporary literature classic Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty is a Wound) continues to make rounds worldwide as Annie Tucker’s English translation of the novel was recently recognized by literary website Literary Hub as “one of the best translated novels of the decade”.

On a list titled “The 10 Best Translated Novels of the Decade”, Literary Hub deputy editor Emily Firetog praises Tucker’s English translation of Cantik Itu Luka – published in 2015 – for its ability to amplify Eka’s unique literary voice and authorial intention without robbing the novel of its essence.

“[…] the hyperbolic, maximalist voice brought to rapturous life by Annie Tucker’s 2015 English translation for New Directions is thoroughly [Eka] Kurniawan’s own,” Firetog wrote on

“Sometimes maddening in its scope and innumerable characters, it’s an exhilarating novel, and one of the best in translation published this decade.”

Other translations mentioned on the list include Ann Goldstein’s English translation of Elena Ferrante’s Italian novel My Brilliant Friend, Anne McLean’s English translation of Juan Gabriel Vasquez’s Spanish novel The Sound of Things Falling, and Jonathan Wright’s English translation of Ahmed Saadawi’s Arabic novel Frankenstein in Baghdad.

Eka took the Indonesian literary scene by storm when he made his debut as a writer with Cantik Itu Luka (2002), winning over critics with his singular style that often blurred the line between realism and surrealism.

Set within the period between the dawn of World War II and Soeharto’s presidency, Cantik Itu Luka tells the story of local prostitute Dewi Ayu following her magical return from her grave after being dead for 21 years. Dewi, a mixed-race descendant of a Dutch East India Company trader, is then taken to a Japanese internment camp at the start of the Second World War. The novel chronicles Dewi’s struggle to survive the camp by becoming “the most beautiful prostitute ever” and her subsequent life in the wake of the country’s independence.

Cantik Itu Luka went on to become a best-selling contemporary Indonesian novel, translated into several languages including Japanese by Ribeka Ota in 2006 and English by Tucker in 2015. Eka won the World Readers’ Award for Cantik Itu Luka in 2016. That same year, he became the first Indonesian writer to be nominated for a Man Booker International Prize.

Tucker has translated various Indonesian books into English, including two of Eka’s other works, Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas (Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash) in 2017 and Kitchen Curse in 2019. (rfa/kes)

No Comments

Leave a Reply