The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Perumal Murugan

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By Aminah Sheikh

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

We do a lot of things, not knowing why. The same is true of writing. I don’t have a clear answer to this question. It could be said that I write because writing is my second nature.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My novel Poonachi Allathu Oru Vellatin Kathai (Poonachi or The Story of a Goat) was published in January 2017. It tells the story of a goat’s life in its entirety. In the novel, I experimented with writing both in the conventional mode of storytelling as well as deviating from it. Writing about a goat was more suited to my heart than writing about human beings. I share my experiences and perspectives through my writing. But for that, I don’t think of conveying anything or achieving anything with it.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

My style of writing is very simple. Many stories lie buried in my heart. Of these, I select the one which takes a complete form, and when time and state of mind are conducive, I sit down to write. Life is a multi-layered entity. It is writing with this understanding that perhaps defines the aesthetic of my work.

Who are your favourite authors?

My most favourite author is R. Shanmugasundaram, the pioneer in the writing of regional novels in Tamil. Moreover, the writers of other languages translated into Tamil are also my favourites. Recently, my attention has been on Chinua Achebe.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

Writing my third novel Koolamadhari (Seasons of the Palm in English) was the most challenging one. The reason was that I tried to warp the landscape in my imagination into a character full of life.

What’s your idea of bliss?

I believe bliss is within oneself, and not without.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

Nowadays, nothing angers or shatters me. I believe that I have attained the maturity to be an ‘observer of life.’

 What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

If ever I get such a chance, I would want to be alone, away from books. I shall spend time enjoying the various patterns formed in the sky.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

I shall take only a great relief with me.

Describe your life philosophy in a sentence.

A dried leaf that follows the current of a river.

Biography:

Perumal Murugan is the star of contemporary Tamil literature. An award-winning writer, poet and scholar, he has garnered both critical acclaim and commercial success for his vast array of work. Some of his novels have been translated into English to immense acclaim, including Seasons of the Palm, which was shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize in 2005; One Part Woman, his best-known work, which was shortlisted for the Crossword Award and won the prestigious ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman in 2015, and, most recently, the widely lauded Pyre.

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