The Best Books I Never Wrote: Eka Kurniawan

Indonesian author, and Franz Kafka fan, Eka Kurniawan.

Indonesian author, and Franz Kafka fan, Eka Kurniawan.

The Trial

Franz Kafka

The opening paragraph is terrific. And K's last words have been lingering in my mind for years: "Like a dog." The arrest and the interrogation scenes, and Josef K's attempts to avoid the trial and to prove his innocence, are part of a simple narrative, but the simplicity reveals a real depth, to remind us how cruel life can be. I have learnt almost all the useful writing tricks I know from this book, and of course from Kafka's other stories and novels.

Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan.

Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan.

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes

Half a joke, half an adventure story, this is the novel you have to read to know what it is to be sane and to make fun of it. It's hard to know if Don Quixote was a madman, or if he is just mocking me, a so-called thoughtful reader. As a writer, I always wonder what reality really is. This chivalric story shows us, through Don Quixote's eyes, just how hilarious it is.

The Arabian Nights


I believe that the greatest responsibility of a writer is to make sure that someone can read what he or she wrote from the first sentence to the final word. Reading is to fulfill our curiosity. We have to keep this curiosity alive, if we don't want to be beheaded by impatient readers, just as the Sultan will certainly behead Shahrazad,  the guru of all story tellers) if she fails to amuse him.


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Knut Hamsun

I read this novel a long time ago, when I was a student and had no idea about what I wanted to be. As in almost all of Hamsun's works, there is a sense of the writer's life as a romantic thing, as well as a celebration of the "I". In fact, this is a story about a failed writer, but after reading it I had a strong desire, almost an obsession, to be a writer. For me, the greatest thing about Hamsun's works is that, at the same time as we follow his characters wandering through rural Northland, their minds are travelling to the grim depths of the human soul.

This Earth of Mankind

Pramoedya Ananta Toer

This Earth of Mankind is for Indonesians what The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is for Americans. Minke's struggle is of course the Indonesian struggle, but his naivety is ours and his tragic life is clearly our history. And in the end, as opposed to the glorification of Indonesian national awakening, Minke's ultimate loss is our most honest confession.

Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan is published by Text, $37.

 - Stuff


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