Eka Kurniawan was born in 1975 in the Indonesian city of Tasikmalaya, West Java. He completed his philosophy studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta with a thesis on Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006), one of the best-known Indonesian writers of the 20th century.
Kurniawan’s own breakthrough as an author came in 2002 with his novel »Cantik Itu Luka« (Eng. »Beauty is a Wound«, 2015), which was chosen by the »New York Times« in 2015 as one of the year’s one hundred most notable books. The novel combines the magical realism of García Márquez – in the form of the fictitious Javanese city of Halimunda – with the Indonesian tradition of oral storytelling, which describes characters by how they behave and feel, not by how they speak and express themselves. The supernatural elements in this story of a prostitute, who comes to life again after 21 years amid the confusion following a coup attempt in Indonesia, are firmly grounded by Kurniawan’s dry humor. In 2004 the author published his novel »Lelaki Harimau«, which appeared in English in 2015 under the title »Man Tiger«. The book is set in a rural residential area at the edge of a small town on the southern coast of Java, which is shattered by a brutal murder. Through his verbal precision and unusual metaphors, Kurniawan proves himself a master of psychological analysis, as he peels away layer after layer of the perpetrator through the depiction his life circumstances. Ultimately revealed beneath the courteous appearance of a young hunter is the spirit of a white tiger, with whom he is obsessed. Among the above-mentioned literary influences figures the dime-store novel, which Kurniawan loved as a boy growing up in West Java. Perhaps this fascination informed his horribly bloody description of the murder. In the afterword to the German edition of »Man Tiger«, translator Martina Heinschke remarks that, in comparison to earlier texts, »ironic concision« subsides over the course of the story, yielding to »an equally curt tone of inner torpor and apparent nonparticipation typical for stories told by those who have been traumatized«. Besides longer texts (in 2016 he published a novel in Indonesia titled »O«), Kurniawan has already published five collections of his short stories, including his first literary publication »Corat-Coret di Toilet« (2000; tr: Toilet Graffiti) and »Perempuan Patah Hati yang Kembali Menemukan Cinta Melalui Mimpi« (2015; tr: Women with Broken Hearts Search for Love in Dreams).
Kurniawan, who lives in Jakarta, was named on of the top global thinkers of 2015 by »Foreign Policy« magazine, in recognition for making Indonesian literature known all over the world.