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Eka launches new novel after entering Man Booker list

Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, March 21, 2016 | 09:36 pm
Eka launches new novel after entering Man Booker list

Eka smiles during the official launch of his fourth book, O, on Sunday in Jakarta. It took eight years for Eka to finish O, which he said he did not write in a linear structure, as the book was written in 2008, the time he was writing his third novel, Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas (Love and Revenge). (The Jakarta Post/Wienda Parwitasari)

Author Eka Kurniawan has launched a new book on Sunday following his recent nomination for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for his second novel Man Tiger.

Titled O, his fourth novel tells the story of a monkey from a topeng monyet (traveling monkey performance) called O who wants to marry a dangdut superstar named Entang Kosasih after seeing his picture in a magazine. In the world where O lives in, monkeys need to behave like humans in order to become truly human. However, the presence of antagonists such as Betalumur and Kirik trouble O's journey to become and love a human. 

Born in Tasikmalaya, West Java, the 40-year-old author said that O was indeed inspired by topeng monyet performances that could still be found in some parts of Jakarta. “At first I wanted to make a children’s fable, but it turned out to be a fable that's not for children,” he laughs. 

Eka has been known to adopt Indonesian folklores into stories. His debut novel, Cantik Itu Luka (Beauty is a Wound), takes on dark episodes in the country’s history and fuses them with traditional folklore and myths. Meanwhile, Lelaki Harimau (Man Tiger) follows a man who believes that a ghostly tiger living inside his body is responsible for a murder.

Compared with Eka's previous works, O has its own complications as it includes individual stories that later unify into a single big story.

At the book's launch in Jakarta on Sunday, writer and filmmaker Djenar Maesa Ayu read the 10th chapter of the novel. 

“I think only few people can write something so serious and detailed without any sense of judgment,” she said, adding that the book taught her that prostitutes and monkeys also have a meaningful system of values. “Who are we to judge which one is good or bad?”

It took eight years for Eka to finish O, which he said he did not write in a linear structure, as the book was written in 2008, the time he was writing his third novel, Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas (Love and Revenge).

When asked whether O would be translated into different languages like his previous novels, Eka said he did not know yet but his publishers had asked him about it.

Cantik Itu Luka has been translated into 25 languages and Lelaki Harimau is currently available in five languages. The latter, translated into English by Labodalih Sembiring, is one of 13 books competing for the 2016 Man Booker prize. 

Man Tiger is the first Indonesian book to be included on the longlist of The Man Booker International Prize 2016.

The Man Booker International Prize, which collaborated with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize this year, will announce a shortlist of six books on April 14 and the winner on May 16. (kes)

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