Perumal Murugan: The Before and the After

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By K. Srilata

On an evening uneasily sandwiched between the demise of the former chief minister Jayalalithaa and the arrival of cyclone Vardah, a small group of people had assembled at Chennai’s iconic Spaces. The occasion was Prakriti Foundation’s launch of Perumal Murugan’s book of poems, Mayanathil Nitkum Maram (A Tree that Stands in the Crematorium) – a book that contains four previous collections of poetry: Nigazh Uravu, Gomuki Nadhikarai Koozhaangal, Neer Midakkum Kanngal and Velli Shani Bhudhan Nyayaru Vzhyayan Chevvai. I was in conversation with Murugan, a role that I, with Murugan’s consent, have recast slightly. I made some introductory remarks following which there was a bi-lingual reading. Murugan read his Tamil poems and I read Peter and Thirugyanam’s English renderings of the same. There was a solemnity to the occasion, for it marked the resurrection of Murugan, the writer. The event itself lasted for less than an hour and there were a few questions and then it is all over before we know it. As we wrap up, I notice a big pile of unsold copies – the story of most poetry book launches.

In January 2015, Murugan had famously announced on Facebook that his writing self was dead. He was being hounded by Hindu right-wing forces and threatened with death. Murugan had made the fatal mistake of portraying certain sexual customs of the people of Tamil Nadu’s Kongu Nadu region in his novel Madhorubhagan. It was a grim, grim story – the sort of thing no writer anywhere in the world would wish for, the sort of thing no writer anywhere in the world should have to face. In the case of Murugan, the threats to his life and to the lives of his family members had the worst possible effect – it very nearly stopped him from writing. Read more

Source: The Wire

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