Jakarta. Indonesia's largest book publishing company Gramedia Pustaka Utama celebrated the 15th anniversary of Eka Kurniawan’s best selling novel "Cantik itu Luka," or "Beauty Is a Wound," at Kinokuniya book store in South Jakarta on Thursday (14/12).
In conjunction with the event, Gramedia released a hardcover edition of the novel designed by Malang-based visual artist Orkha Creative.
Writer and graphic designer Eka Kurniawan said the launching was an exciting challenge.
"Cantik Itu Luka is already 15 years old. As the author of the novel, I am very happy to see the novel being shown to different generations. It’s still the same book but maybe these new generations will read the novel differently."
Eka said the anniversary is a milestone of his dedications as a writer.
"I have learned a lot from my previous novels as I learned a lot from the people I have met in this industry. I can’t talk about new projects yet but this anniversary will be a driving force for me to come up with exciting projects in the future."
"Cantik Itu Luka" was first published by small Yogyakarta publisher Jendela dan Akademi Kebudayaan in 2002.
Back then, Eka said he had no literature background and the novel was written with simple conversational words.
"I never formally learned to write but I love reading genres like horror and adult novels. My interest in literature influences my work and keeps me going."
The award-winning writer also recalled that many local publishers rejected the novel.
"Since I was young, I knew writing was my passion, but I had no background in it. When I wrote the novel, I didn’t have a specific plot in mind and I let my imagination take the lead … but back then it was hard to find a publisher who had the same view as me."
His works became more recognizable in Indonesia when Gramedia Pustaka published "Cantik Itu Luka" in 2004. However, his success can not be separated from the role of the late Benedict Anderson, a professor at Cornell University, who translated his short story titled "Corat-Coret di Toilet" (Graffiti in the Toilet) for Indonesia, a journal by Cornell.
He said he would have never imagined that an international publisher would be interested to publish his work.
"I was surprised that he was interested in my work, but it was such a great honor for me that my work was being appreciated. He also introduced my works to a major publisher and I started to gain more readers from that."
"Cantik Itu Luka" follows the story of beautiful prostitute Dewi Ayu, who rose from her grave after being dead for 21 years. She and her four daughters are troubled with murder, rape, bestiality and vengeful undead.
Eka uses hyperboles to represent his anger and critique toward the 1965 communist purge, greedy leaders, the struggle for independence and also President Suharto’s New Order regime.
"Eka’s novel combines history, satire, legend, humor, romance and tragedy, which are packed in unique and interesting ways. His humor makes this novel enjoyable and fun to read,” said senior editor at Gramedia Pustaka, Mirna Yulistianti.
She said the novel is one of the greatest achievements in Indonesian literature, not only for the writer but also for the publisher.
"This is a wake-up call for the world to witness Indonesia as a country with great quality literary works," Mirna added.
"Cantik Itu Luka" has been translated into over 33 languages and has been sold all over the world. The novel also received many awards, such as the World Reader’s Award in 2016, The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2015, Oprah Winfrey’s best novel of the Fall 2015, and Harper’s Bazaar’s 15 Best Books of 2015.
Eka has written nine books, including four novels – "Cantik Itu Luka" in 2002, "Lelaki Harimau" (Man Tiger) in 2004, "Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas" (Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash) in 2014, and "O" in 2016.
His third novel, "Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash" will be made into a movie by filmmaker Edwin, director of "Post Card from the Zoo" and "Posesif" ("Possessive"). Eka also co-wrote the screenplay with Edwin.