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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Man Tiger

Eka Kurniawan

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To purchase Man Tiger

Title: Man Tiger
Author: Eka Kurniawan
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 181 pages
Original in: Indonesian
Availability: Man Tiger - US
Man Tiger - UK
Man Tiger - Canada
Man Tiger - India
L'homme-tigre - France
Tigermann - Deutschland
L'uomo tigre - Italia
  • Indonesian title: Lelaki Harimau
  • Translated by Labodalih Sembiring
  • With an Introduction by Benedict Anderson

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Our Assessment:

B : fine, small tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 29/7/2016 Lucy Popescu
The Guardian . 28/11/2015 Deborah Smith
The NY Times Book Rev. . 13/9/2015 Jon Fasman

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) slimmer volume but just as savage a critique of violence against Indonesia’s women." - Lucy Popescu, Financial Times

  • "Man Tiger is slender and taut, with the central supernatural element given relatively little page time and the nation’s history collapsed into oblique glimpses. (...) Refreshingly, Kurniawan puts value on literature as entertainment, and his books are certainly that. Man Tiger is particularly effective in deploying some of the classic techniques of the crime genre while subverting others" - Deborah Smith, The Guardian

  • "Man Tiger is tight, focused and thrilling. Like a good crime novel, Man Tiger works best when read in a single sitting, and its propulsive suspense is all the more remarkable because Kurniawan reveals both victim and murderer in the first sentence." - Jon Fasman, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Man Tiger may not seem like much of a murder mystery, given that the opening words reveal who killed whom, yet in retracing the steps that led to the crime, as "cut and dried" as it seems, and in exploring the motive behind it -- revealed only at the book's conclusion -- Kurniawan keeps the reader in mystery-like suspense.
       The murderer is Margio -- and Margio wasn't quite himself in the brutal commission of the crime of Anwar Sadat (no relation to the former Egyptian president). Margio is the 'man tiger' of the title, confessing or claiming, after he is taken into custody:

     "It wasn't me," he said calmly and without guilt. "There is a tiger inside my body."
       The man-tiger concept is one Kurniawan presents well, yet it turns out to be a relatively small part of the story -- though certainly significant, both in its history and in Margio's efforts to tame his beast. Instead, most of Man Tiger is a domestic story.
       Shortly before Margio committed murder, his father, Komar bin Syueb, passed away -- a father he hated, and whom he had talked of killing. The story looks back to Margio's childhood, and then even further, to his parents' courtship, and then Komar bin Syueb and Nuraeni's sour and difficult marriage. Victim Anwar Sadat's role only (re)emerges near the conclusion, as we learn of Margio's place in that household -- and his friendship with Anwar's daughter, Maharani. But the reasons behind the murder, though already hinted at early on, only really become clear very late.
       Kurniawan presents a vivid portrait of an unhappy marriage and of stunted characters. Komar bin Syueb behaves atrociously, yet even he is in part portrayed sympathetically, with Nuraeni unable and unwilling to accept even his well-meaning failures. Margio's youthful confusions are also convincing, as are Maharani's fumblings with him.
       There are quite a few impressive scenes, including some with a slightly supernatural element, such as the efforts at burying Komar bin Syueb, as well as those dealing with the man-tiger. But Kurniawan is also very good with simple, basic realism, as in describing Margio's family moving house.
       Man Tiger is the story of a poor, ill-matched couple and their family, and an interesting slice of provincial Indonesian life. Ultimately, one might wish for a more thorough synthesis of the tiger elements with the rest of the story -- as is, they stand a bit far apart -- but it's still a quite effective tale.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 October 2015

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Man Tiger: Reviews: Eka Kurniawan: Other books by Eka Kurniawan under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Indonesian author Eka Kurniawan was born in 1975.

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© 2015-2016 the complete review

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