Perumal Murugan is one of the most renowned Indian writers in Tamil today. He writes chiefly on lives lived in the margins, in terse lyrical prose. He has written nine novels, four collection of short stories and four anthologies of poetry. Four of his novels have been translated into English. Perumal Murugan’s works have won critical acclaim and earned him several national Awards.
Winner of ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman 2015.
ONE PART WOMAN (Maadhorubaagan)
Number of words: 56,382
All of Kali and Ponna’s efforts to conceive a child – from prayers to penance, potions to pilgrimages – have been in vain. Despite being in a loving and sexually satisfying relationship, they are relentlessly hounded by the taunts and insinuations of the people around them.
Ultimately, all their hopes and apprehensions come to converge on the chariot festival in the temple of the half-female god Ardhanareeswara and the revelry surrounding it. Everything hinges on the one night when rules are relaxed and consensual union between any man and woman is sanctioned. This night could end the couple’s suffering and humiliation. But it will also put their marriage to the ultimate test.
Acutely observed, One Part Woman lays bare with unsparing clarity a relationship caught between the dictates of social convention and the tug of personal anxieties. Widely acclaimed in the original Tamil, this novel vividly conjures an intimate and unsettling portrait of marriage, love and sex.
Number of words: 56,100
Saroja and Kumaresan are in love. After a hasty wedding, they arrive in Kumaresan's village, harbouring the dangerous secret that theirs is an inter-caste marriage, likely to anger the villagers should they learn of it. Kumaresan is confident that all will be well. He naively believes that after the initial round of curious questions, the inquiries will die down and the couple will be left alone. But nothing is further from the truth. The villagers strongly suspect that Saroja must belong to a different caste. It is only a matter of time before their suspicions harden into certainty and, outraged, they set about exacting their revenge.
With spare, powerful prose, Murugan masterfully conjures a terrifying vision of intolerance in this devastating tale of innocent young love pitted against chilling savagery.
Long listed for the DSC prize for South Asian Literature.
SEASONS OF THE PALM (Koolamaathari)
Number of words: 96,955
This English translation of a contemporary Tamil classic captures a world that is virtually unknown outside the Tamil village. The complex world of dalit ‘untouchables’, who struggle to hold their own in a context of brutal injustice of the caste system.
Seasons of the Palm tells the story of Shortie and his friends –Tallfellow, Stumpleg, Belly and Matchbox – all of them ‘untouchable’ chakkili children who herd goats for their Gounder caste landlords.
A sophisticated mixture of naturalism and fantasy, this is a novel whose politics comes alive through its art. Shortlisted for the Kiriyama Award (2005 fiction finalist).
CURRENT SHOW (Nizhal Muttram)
Number of words: 35,850
Set in a small highway town in South India, Current Show revolves around Sathi, a young soda-seller in a run-down theatre. This is life lived on the margins of the film world, far beyond glitz and glitter of Tamil cinema.
Ill-paid and always tired, Sathi finds relief from the tedium of the everyday in marijuana. His company of friends is all vulnerable, desperate young men, who work around the theatre and alternately bully and support each other. An intense and tender friendship with one of the men sustains Sathi, until a train of events throw his days and nights into disarray.
THE GOAT THIEF
Number of pages: 208
Perumal Murugan is one of the best Indian writers today. He trains his unsentimental eye on men and women who live in the margins of our society. He tells their stories with deep sympathy and calm clarity. A lonely night watchman falls in love with the ghost of a rape victim. A terrified young goat thief finds himself surrounded by a mob baying for his blood. An old peasant exhausted by a lifetime of labour is consumed by jealousy and driven to an act of total destruction. Set in the arid Kongu landscape of rural Tamil Nadu, these tales illuminate the extraordinary acts that make up everyday lives.
SONGS OF A COWARD (Kozhaiyin Padal)
Number of pages: 292
A king decrees that all humans be skinned alive. A man runs from words that hound him like a pack of wolves. A legion of white snakes sweeps across a land blighted by drought. A beleaguered soul laments the loss of a homeland. A coward’s many virtues are lauded to disturbing effect.
By turns passionate, elegiac, angry, tender nightmarish and courageous, the poems in Songs of a Coward weave an exquisite tapestry of rich images and turbulent emotions. Written during a period of immense personal turmoil, these verses, an enduring testament to the resilience of an imagination under siege, show how poetry came to murugan’s rescue in his darkest moments.
This edition also includes ‘Growing Out of the Cocoon’, Murugan’s powerful and moving statement, delivered in 2016, announcing his return to writing and describing the profound impact of poetry on his life.
POONACHI or THE STORY OF A BLACK GOAT (Poonachi Allathu Oru Vellatin Kathai)
Number of pages: 174
An old man is watching the sun set over his village one quiet evening when a mysterious stranger turns up with the gift of day-old goat kid. Thus begins the story of Poonachi, the little black goat whose fragility and fecundity become cause for wonderment to all those around her.
From the eagle that swoops down on her to the wildcat that attempts to snatch her away within days of her arrival, the old man and his wife struggle to keep their tiny miracle alive. Before they know it, Poonachi has become the centre of their meagre world and the old woman and she are inseparable.
Life is not easy for any of them – farmers, goatherds or goats. The rains play truant, the gods claim their sacrifices, and the forest waits to lure unwary creatures into its embrace. Through it all, Poonachi watches and silently questions the ways of the humans who alternately protect and wound her.
Wrought by the imagination of a skilful storyteller, this delicate yet complex story of the animal world is about life and death and all that breathes in between. It is also a commentary on out times, on the unequal hierarchies of class and colour, and the increasing vulnerability of individuals who choose to speak up rather than submit to the vagaries of an ambitious if incompetent state.
BLACK COFFEE IN A COCONUT SHELL (ed) (Sathiyum Naanum)
Number of pages: 230
Caste, as it is experienced in everyday life, is the piece de resistance of this book. Thirty-two voices narrate how from childhood to adulthood, case intruded upon their lives-food, clothes, games, gait, love, marriage and every aspect of one’s existence including death. Like the editor Perumal Murugan says, caste is like god, it is omnipresent.
The contributors write about the myriad ways in which they have experienced caste. It may be in the form of forgoing certain kinds of food, or eating food at secluded corners of a household, or drinking tea out of a crushed plastic cup, or drinking black coffee in a coconut shell or water poured from above into a cupped hand. Such experiences may also take the form of forbidden streets, friends disapproved of and love denied. And when one leaves behind the fear of caste while living one’s life, there is still death to deal with.