“Murugan is a great anatomist of power and, in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence,” the judging panel noted.
By: Pramod Thomas
The Booker Prize Foundation on Tuesday (21) announced that Indian author Perumal Murugan’s Tamil novel Pyre is among 13 books from across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America to make it to the longlist of the International Booker Prize 2023.
Murugan’s Pyre was published in 2016 and translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan.
Murugan, 56, is the first Tamil writer to be nominated for the award.
The novel narrates the story of an inter-caste couple who run away, leading to a series of ominous events.
The International Booker Prize is presented annually for an original fiction work in any language that has been translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.
Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell won the award last year for the first-ever Hindi novel Tomb of Sand.
The £50,000 prize money is shared between the writer and translator of the winning work, which will be declared on May 23.
Murugan, based in Salem in Tamil Nadu, described Pyre as a very important book of his.
“Just a few minutes back someone broke the news to me. I am very happy, and this is a great acceptance of my writing… ‘Pyre’ deals with honour killing. Honour killing is a very big problem in our country, I hope more people get to know about this issue after this recognition,” Murugan said.
The Tamil Nadu-born author, scholar and poet has written 10 novels, five collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry. He won the Sahitya Akademi’s Translation Prize for his novel ‘Madhorubhagan’, translated by Vasudevan as ‘One Part Woman’.
“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,” Booker’s prize judging panel noted.
In 2015, Murugan declared himself “dead” and announced his retirement from writing following protests, litigation and the burning of this later award-winning work.
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.”
Others on the longlist include Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov, who writes fiction in Russian, shortlisted for ‘Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv’; ‘Boulder’ by Catalan author Eva Baltasar; ‘Whale’ by Korean author Cheon Myeong-kwan; and ‘Standing Heavy’ by French-Ivorian author GauZ’.