Tamil writer Perumal Murugan ’s novel ‘Pookkuzhi has made it to the International Booker Prize 2023 longlist. He becomes the first Tamil novelist to be nominated for the Bookers. Pookkuzhi translated as ‘Pyre’ in English by Anirudh Vasudevan.
The list was announced earlier this week on March 14. In 2022, Geetanjali Shree became the first Hindi novelist to win an International Booker Prizefor ‘Ret Samadhi’.
In total, 13 novels have made it to the longlist this year. Apart from Tamil, Bulgarian and Catalan languages have made their debut this year. The prize, worth £50,000 (Rs 50 lakh), is awarded annually for a novel or short story collection written in any language, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The prize money is split equally between the author and translator of the winning book.
WHAT THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2023 JUDGES SAY?
“Perumal Murugan is a great anatomist of power and, in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence. With flashes of fable, his novel tells a story specific and universal: how flammable are fear and the distrust of others,” said the judges of the prize.
They noted that the book set in rural Tamil Nadu in the 1980s explores caste-based violence through the elopement of a young inter-caste couple.
WHO IS PERUMAL MURUGAN?
Author of eleven novels and five collections each of short stories and poetry, Murugan was born in rural Tamil Nadu. He has twice been longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature – for One Part Woman and The Story of a Goat. In 2015, Murugan declared himself ‘dead’ and announced his retirement from writing following protests, litigation and the burning of his book Maadhorubaagan by caste-based groups. At a court case in 2016 centred on the book, the judge ruled: ‘Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write.’ For Murugan, the statement was both ‘a command and a benediction’ to resume writing.
His work chronicles the everyday lives of Tamil rural folk, their traditions and social hierarchies. In particular, several of his books critique the caste system and how it operates through oppression and violence. Apart from fiction, he focused on the literature of the Kongu Nadu region, which comprises parts of western Tamil Nadu, southeastern Karnataka and eastern Kerala. Most notably, he has done extensive research on Kongu folklore, especially the ballads on Annamar Sami – a pair of folk deities.