Author's literal take on Indonesia

EKA KURNIAWAN is currently considered as one of the most exciting fiction writers in the Indonesia. In his first novel, Cinta Itu Luka, first published in 2002, Eka already won fans and critical reviews.

Eka who was born in Tasikmalaya in West Java, Indonesia in 1975. He has written three novels and three collections of short stories. The 39-year-old author was recently in Malaysia.

In an interview with theSun, the talented writer shared his thoughts on work, the literary scene in Indonesia, his new book and what motivates him to write.

You have been compared to (the late) Pramoedya Ananta Toer, one of the finest writers in Indonesia. Some believe you are the most exciting writer that Indonesia has produced after him. What is your comment?

"I believe the comparison is not fair. Pramoedya and I came from two different generations and two different eras. So naturally, we tend to look at Indonesia differently.
"When two people look at something differently, naturally, the stories we tell will be different. I really believe you cannot make a comparison between two writers.
"Each writer has his own styles and his own perspective. Pram is one of the finest writers in my country. But he should not be made into a God.

Some readers love your novel Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas but some were not comfortable with the vulgar language. Any comment?

"My characters in the novel are from lower class and I was capturing the language these characters will used when it comes to sex. I also looked at some of the graffiti writings on sex that you will normally find behind the trucks (In Indonesia, graffiti is often found on trucks).
"I have used some of these graffiti writings as an inspiration. Personally, I take these comments as compliments.
"It is like some people who do not like seafood but as a chef, when I cooked up a good seafood dish they liked the flavours. They have forgotten the fact the dish they were eating was seafood."

Your novels deal with sexual themes. Some feel good literature should discuss the mind rather than desires of the body. What is your comment?

"I don't agree. We should be discussing anything that is relevant to the human's life - mind and bodies, happiness and sadness, virtue and sin. Our society and our history are always dealing with the pain and joy of our bodies and our mind as well.

What motivates you to be a writer?

"I started writing at the age 11. I was not a clever student nor was I keen on sports. I wanted to win the attention of my classmates especially the opposite sex. So I started writing poetry. But over the years I became serious about making writing my profession.

What is the greatest misconception that people have about you?

"After reading my work, some people have this impression that I am a serious old man. But when they meet me, they are surprised that I am nothing like that (in fact he is a jovial, boyish looking, with a smile on his face and a love for laughter).
"To me, an ideal literature is telling a serious story with a touch of humour. I know people who read my work had a good laugh. But in the end they always regard my work as serious literature.

Do you think every story should have a message that changes the world?

"Consciously and unconsciously writes have messages in their stories. But the writer must understand readers may interpret differently from the writer.
"The readers may not see things the same way the writer wants them to see. The writer simply has no control over how his readers would interpret his stories.
"I really believe a story should not become a sermon. Once a story becomes a sermon, the story is no longer interesting. I write mainly to disturb the mind of my readers (he laugh).

Why do you want to rattle the mind of your readers?

"Literature is one of the ways to discuss our existence in this life, to share our ideas and to react to other people's ideas. What is the best way to get people into a discussion? Perhaps by disturbing their mind... am I right?

You have been praised often. How do you take criticism?

"When my first novel (Cinta itu Luka) came out, a well known critic gave bad review in the newspaper.
"He said that my novel had no direction - it is not a realist nor was it surrealist. I did not mind his reviews. But my friends and my fans were not happy.
"They felt the critic was unfair and that it did not appreciate a young writer's view about the world. They critiqued him for giving me a bad review. The reviewer jokingly told me that my friends and my fans were very garang (fierce) (he laughs).