The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Eka Kurniawan

By Aminah Sheikh


Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

First of all, it is because I love reading. When I was still a kid, we had a lack of books, so I thought about writing my own stories. More than this, we as humans tend to record everything because our memories are limited. We write our experiences, our knowledge, our ideas, our stories, etc. I am just part of it.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My latest book Beauty Is a Wound (Annie Tucker) was published last year ( and in India by Speaking Tiger). As I’ve already published four novels, I think it’s time for me to take a break for a while. I don’t want my act of writing to be kind of mechanical. I want to recreate my appetite, to be hungry again. So, nowadays I only read books, meet people, travel here and there, and maybe do something that has no relation with literature at all like gardening.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Since I love a lot of genre novels (horror, martial art, crime fiction, sci-fi), my writings usually are full of these elements. I believe that literature should open as wide as it can be to all possibilities and perspectives.

Who are your favorite authors?

Indonesian writers, I can mention Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Asmaraman S. Kho Ping Hoo and Abdullah Harahap. International writers, some of them are Knut Hamsun, Cervantes, Merman Melville, William Faulkner, Kawabata, Garcia Marquez, Gunter Grass. The list will be longer than this.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

Writing a movie script. The writing itself is just a bridge between our idea (writer’s, director’s) and the movie. I provide raw material to be interpreted by the director, actors, photographers, etc. In the end, we watch the movie, not read the script.

What’s your idea of bliss?

As long as I can’t see a border. Literally or metaphorical.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

If people try to force their ideas on to me, or try to create a wall (physically or mentally) around me.

What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

Rereading Don Quixote or Moby Dick again and again will be good for me. I will be glad to rediscover all the stories in Completed Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

Lives matter to me, so I don’t want to think of anything else. Just save our own lives. To be honest, I don’t like the idea of being dependent on things.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence. 

I always think that I am an anarchist, and becoming a novelist is a perfect job for one of them.



Eka Kurniawan was born in Tasikmalaya, Indonesia, in 1975, and graduated from Faculty of Philosophy, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. He writes novels, short stories, as well as non-fiction pieces. Beauty Is a Wound has been highlighted among Oprah Winfrey’s Best Novels of the Fall selection, The Guardian’s The Year’s Best Literary Fiction and The New York Time’s Notable Books of 2015.



Aminah Sheikh is the Online Editor of Kitaab