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Found in Translation

Eka Kurniawan and the Politics of Genre

Meghan Downes


Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan achieved huge critical success globally during 2015–2016 with his translated novels Beauty is a wound and Man tiger, which have been praised for their sweeping historical scope, ‘magical realist’ elements, and experimentation with voice and genre. First published in the Indonesian language more than a decade earlier as Cantik itu luka and Lelaki harimau, these novels initially faced a relatively lukewarm reception locally. Only once Eka Kurniawan’s work had been ‘found in translation’ was he taken more seriously in Indonesian media coverage. This article charts Eka Kurniawan’s rise to literary fame, paying particular attention to the shifting tone and content of reviews, marketing, cover art, and media representations, as the translated novels circulated globally. I use this case to examine two key issues: firstly, the ways in which certain genres such as horror and crime are ‘othered’ in the Indonesian literary landscape; and secondly, how processes of translation, distribution, and reception outside Indonesia can significantly impact local interpretations of an author and their work. In doing so, this article demonstrates that the politics of genre and the power relations of international publishing both contribute to complex patterns of inclusion and exclusion from ‘local’ and ‘global’ literary canons.

Indonesia and its Others

Inclusion, Exclusion and Inter-cultural Engagements

Meghan Downes

Neneng Yanti Khozanatu Lahpan


Through an analysis of local Sundanese music in distinct settings in village and urban contexts, this article observes and analyses different constructions of meaning around Sundanese Islamic music, as well as the role played by cultural activists and village audiences in those constructions. Based on fieldwork in Tasikmalaya, West Java, I explore the novel meanings given to village genres in urban contexts, and contrast that with the affective responses of village audiences. I find that musical meanings offer different processes of identity formation within particular social boundaries. Emergent Indonesian political developments shape these processes.