Thursday, August 18, 2016

Beauty is A Wound, isn't it?

How many of us –girls/women look into the mirrors every morning make sure the makeup we wear for that day is perfect enough for like.....hours? Or maybe for those who don’t even use any make up just maybe thinking “At least, it’s not shameful to meet the colleagues.”
Do you really believe that beauty has a real standard? Like all those supermodels who walk down the catwalk. And they walk literally like cat. When you can say yourself beautiful when you have 45 kilograms of weight and 175 centimeters something of height –this is NOT a jealousy of mine who’s overweight, for sure. And you forced yourself to get in all those number, unconciously it leads you to bulimia or anorexia. Does that count as beauty also?
It’s actually a kind of humanity when you like something’s beautiful, so does The Creator of us who love the beauty, that’s why He made us beautiful, but somehow all the media blurred them all, and we can’t refuse but following the flow of the hyper realistic reality. When beauty is counted in numbers, happiness is defined by what you wear, what you ride, what you talk about. When what matters in our eyes is reputation. It’s funny how the society construct them all somehow.

It's been a good companion during the traffic, help me to survive every Sundays
and understand how beauty can be seen.

But, this time, I’m not going to judge or talk more about beauty standard or the cruel society who made it. I’m going to share the experience of reading a novel, entitled Beauty is A Wound by Eka Kurniawan. But I read the Bahasa Indonesia version of it, entitled Cinta Itu Luka.

Well, I read this book because of the recommendation from the friend of mine who is also a bookworm. I will share the experience, so this is not going to be some kind of retention of book review like you can always find in magazine or newspaper.

Nothing much I could get in the synopsis at first. It’s only telling us about someone –a woman, who was forced to be a *hore in the colonials era and she had 3 girls, 3 beautiful girls, so beautiful people would die for them, and when she’s pregnant for the fourth girl, she wished to have a super ugly girl who will be named, Si Cantik (The Beauty).

The novel was started by the information of Dewi Ayu who was reborn from its grave after 20 years died. From here I could sense all the fantasy and also mystical thing that Eka gave to this novel. Well, doesn’t matter to me, I could accept this. Eka combined a progressive and flashback plot through its characters. He always flashback to a situation or time where there is a character come up in the next chapter or the chapter after that. Somehow it makes the story felt expanding. Like at the beginning you may think this novel will only tell you about Dewi Ayu –as the main character, but no dear, it expands and will tell you about how Dewi Ayu could ever exist. Yap the novel also told us the story about her mama and papa and her grandparents, and the lover of her other grandmother. It’s still related to the story but, to me, somehow it’s just too far from what Eka’s message that he want to deliver.

Point number two; there are too many characters here that I find it’s not so good for the readers to really get drown into the characters. It doesn’t matter after all at the beginning but, when it comes to the end, it leaves some questions about why’s and how’s the character A or B or C could X or Y or Z? Sorry not sorry but some things become a little confusing and ambiguous to me.

So, It’s a story about Dewi Ayu’s Big Family, not Dewi Ayu herself. Remembering the title “Cantik Itu Luka” (Beauty is A Wound –English version) the essence of this title is not always told by the main character. Like how the history of Dewi Rengganis who is The Most Beautiful Princess ever exist in Halimunda could hide away just to defend herself from all those people who adored her beauty. And how her beauty could start a war between some kingdoms. Somehow it tells us about how powerful the beauty is, it could control our mind, our body, even start a war, and become wounds for other people. Tragic. Not only about how Dewi Rengganis’ beauty, the novel also tells uus about many others tragedy that starts because beauty and most of them are because of Dewi Ayu’s children. I’m thinking how Eka tried to give us another insight or point of view about beauty. So many people adore beauty, but when it comes to tragedies like when Dewi Ayu was forced to be a *hore because of her beauty, or Alamanda was rapped because of her beauty and her bad behavior of being a playgirl, or even Dewi Rengganis when finally she got to married to a dog because of her promise to her people, would people still want to be beautiful people? Even the most beautiful creature on earth got its dark side. Nothing’s perfect.

Reading this book is like opening up your old-old-old history book under your bed. I was like running through one era to another. Here is brief timeline of history that we would relearn in this novel :
Dewi Ayu itself born in Colonial period, where she herself was an Indonesia-Netherland born. The novel tells us how the situation and what kind of life our grand-grand-grandparents live in that era. After that Japan arrived in Indonesia and all the Netherlands were ran away by ship which was sinked by Japan army, lucky Dewi Ayu was not one of the victims. After that Japan was defeated and then Indonesia celebrate its Independency. Then it passed the Aggression by NICA, this moment helped Dewi Ayu to bring back her hope for her treasures but in this time, she will be the *hore that people would adore for the rest of her life, instead. And this novel also told us about how the communism grew in Indonesia, only in the lower level –regional level; like Halimunda. Next is how the capitalist was born and control all the resources –in Halimunda case, it’s fishes that they control. And how the Chinese was starting to trade and doing some business. This novel also told us about how the Slaughter of PKI has been done. And also how preman or known as free-man was erased without any information left, one of those moments in New Order in this Republic. That is it. Now you can breathe...

And there is also a special redline for me when I read this book. First, I don’t know whether Eka Kurniawan is a socialist or a communist or not one of them. But I feel “something” just how he build the character one to another. Kamerad Salim is the first communist to come up, that somehow influenced Kliwon –that will be known as Kamerad Kliwon, the leader or Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in Halimunda in a few years ahead. Technically, Kamerad Salim is not the first Communist to come up, but Kliwon’s father, he’s also a communist but Eka didn’t give any space for Kliwon’s father to show up, which is good. He told communism as it’s not something to be aware like all the other books we usually find in the bookstore or thing that had ever been a ghost to some people. Eka only told us (more than once) that there will be a time when this party will be broke down and all the communist will get what they deserve.
Let’s get in the character of Dewi Ayu’s Children’s spouses.
First, there is this Shodanco. Someone who is dedicated on his job to his region, and have the spirit to defend his region from any disturbances. Never lose in any battles. Will always get what he wanted. Got 3 ships –the big ones to catch fishes in Halimunda that will set the fire between the local fisherman lead by Kamerad Kliwon and him. He will destroy those who don’t have the same point of views. For me, Shodanco is not only a veteran in any wars he led, but also a represent of government. Even though his role is as soldier, head of soldier in Halimunda, to me it’s enough to represent government.
Second, it’s Maman Gendeng. The strong men who ever lived in Halimunda. He’s a fighter. His role is as a freeman who controls the region. He cares for his friends, and never let anybody to take his place, in case if there is someone who wants to take it, take it with blood. But this strong man, have a little education so it is only strength that can be counted by him. To me he represents people. A starving people, sometimes they don’t need some kind of strategic position like Shodanco, they only need enough foods. He cares about his position just to make sure it’ll give him a kind of guarantee to have what he need to live.
Third, it’s Kamerad Kliwon. Live as a son of a tailor. He was described as a kind, got his own world that somehow his mother can’t understand, love Dewi Ayu’s daughter –Alamanda sincerely, caring and never play with any *hores and never rape any girls just like the two other guys.
I don’t know if it is just me and my bad thoughts or Eka really tried to make the Shodanco(or the government as I thought he represent to) a villain. By his ambition to be the only one who would monopolize the price of fishes in Halimunda and the fact that he rape Dewi Ayu’s daughter just to get her and how he rape her –even after marriage, I’m not sure if this could be mentioned as rape though.
Even Maman Gendeng (the freeman) and friends, the ones with tattoos and love to get drunk are those who play as the victims. Even Maman Gendeng tried to be a better man after his marriage with Dewi Ayu’s daughter, spend his money for her wife’s business just to get a better life after he planned to quit for being a freeman and plan to be farmer, fisher or whoever he will be but not more fighting for money or somebody’s beer. Eka tried to make this character who is always judged by society as the villain to be someone who actually has the same spirit as ours to be a better person.
And Kamerad Kliwon with all the good stuffs I mentioned. It becomes clearer when it comes to how these three guys died. The communist (Kamerad Kliwon) he suicided because of he feel sorry for his wife because he has cheated on her because of his old love that he has been kept after years passed by, such as sweet guy, right? Maman Gendeng died of Moksa(leaving his body to Heaven), and Shodanco died of dogs that eat him alive –the animal that he used to like.
In my opinion, Eka direct us to like those who we should like and who we should not like. And another stereotype that Eka try to break for those who still don’t know about this stuff is about the relation between being communist and being a theist. Because there is one fine line where Kamerad Kliwon feel sorry for the loss of Mualimin, one of the member in the party with this sentence ,
“Bagaimanapun Mualimin adalah seorang komunis muslim. Ia telah mati dalam perjuangan, sebab ia menganggap hal itu sebagai jihad. Ia telah menulis wasiat sejak bertahun-tahun lalu bahwa jika ia mati  dalam perjuangan, ia ingin dikuburkan sebagai syuhada.” (Kurniawan : 306).
It’s like well it’s true tho, there’s no relation between being communist and having one faith or religion, being a theist. But I just wondered if this sentence are read by those who is can’t filter the information, will they think “so why is everybody refusing communism while it’s good, people from the lower level are living in peace?”
It’s amazing tho, how Eka tried to give us explanation about what happened between this three characters in the novel when we connect them in the real live in 2 most important tragedies in the history of this Republic which are G30S and Petrus(Penembakan Misterius).
After all the big events and tragedies that happened time to time that never stop amazed me, I think the ending is one of the part that hit me hard with a question, “Are we done yet?” because it feels like something that is forced to stop. If the purpose is to kill the ending part when Kliwon said, “Karena Cantik Itu Luka”, sorry not sorry, Eka you failed(at least and hope it’s only for me), because it’s not killing. The sentence and the thing that they do is not killing. Even other character –the supporting ones, are implicitly much better for saying the message you want to deliver than how Kliwon did it for the ending part.
Despite all those things I don’t like in the novel this novel is still worth to buy and to read. It will give you some insights and a brand new point of view of how you see beauty, how you see people and their efforts, how you see imperfections, a spirit to learn about the history of Indonesia, and how to respect each other. I’ll give êêê stars for the rate.

 Sorry for giving you so much spoilers btw hehe. And if you have any book recommendation please shares it to me and leave your comments here.

The last, imperfection makes you human, dear.