”I feel happy. I don’t have expectations. I write about things that come naturally to me. Now also, I feel the same way,” said Perumal Murugan as his book made it to the longlist of the International Booker Prize 2023.
As someone who once announced his own death as an author in 2015 and then resumed his writing, Murugan, whose works focus on village lives and caste problems in Tamil Nadu, has come a long way.
His book in the longlist ‘Pyre’ — a translation of his original Tamil work ‘Pukkuli’ that happened in 2012 — revolves around honour killing.
”Nowadays, the issue of honour killings is being highlighted in novels, stories, cinemas and social media. So, such incidents become news and come into the public domain. It is a very healthy thing (in terms of fighting against the menace).
”Around 10 to 20 years ago, nobody would have known about incidents of honour killings. Now, that is not the situation, and there have been a lot of social changes. I feel that the practice itself will go away in the coming years,” Murugan told PTI in an interview over the phone from Tamil Nadu.
For the 56-year-old former college lecturer, the writings seek to dispel the notion that things are always good in villages, and the novel ‘Pyre’ has also tried to do the same.
”We assume that people are innocent… that’s how it has been registered in common sense. But it is not… Humans, whether they are in rural or urban areas, there will be those with dirt and scams (associated with them),” he said.
Murugan, who lives in Namakkal in Tamil Nadu, is currently working on a new novel and also writing short stories. So far, he has authored 11 novels, 5 collections each of short stories and poetry and non-fictional works.
Out of these works, some novels and collections of short stories have been translated into English.
‘Pyre’ is among the 13 books from across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America to make it to the longlist of the International Booker Prize 2023, announced by the Booker Prize Foundation here on Tuesday.
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, according to the Booker Prize judges.
When asked about his profile mentioning that he had declared himself ”dead” as an author, Murugan said those lines have become famous.
”Now, without those lines, no profile of mine is coming out. Those lines have become famous, and whenever my name is mentioned, these lines are inevitable…Life is different now,” he remarked.
After teaching for more than 30 years, Murugan said he has taken voluntary retirement. When asked how he spends time, he said, ”I spend my time writing, looking after family things and doing agriculture. Rather, I don’t have enough time”.