International Booker Prize 2023: Pyre, a novel by Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, has been named to the longlist for the 2023 International Booker Prize. Pyre, one of the 13 contenders, was originally written in Tamil as Pookuzhi in 2013 and translated into English by Aniruddha Vasudevan in 2016. The novel is set in the 1980s and revolves around an inter-caste couple, Saroja and Kumaresan, who marry and the difficulties they face when they move to Kumaresan’s village in southern Tamil Nadu. The Tamil version of the book is dedicated to Ilavarasan, a Dalit youth who was discovered dead on a railway track after marrying Divya of the dominant Vanniyar caste.
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Perumal Murugan received harsh criticism for one of his books, Madhorubhagan (translated to English as One Part Woman by Aniruddha Vasudevan), which depicted the struggles of a childless couple in Tiruchengode over a century ago who practised “tradition-free consensual sex rituals.” Members of the Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, a dominant caste Hindu organisation, protested the book and burned copies of it in 2014, accusing it of portraying Gounder women in a negative light.
Murugan makes the list with his 2016 book “Pyre,” which was translated from Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan. “Pyre” is the story of an intercaste couple who elope, setting in motion a terrifying foreboding story.
The 56-year-old is the first Tamil writer to make the 13-work longlist. Last year, for her book “Tomb of Sand,” Hindi writer Geetanjali Shree became the first Indian writer to win the award, which honours translated works.
Murugan was described as a “great anatomist of power and, in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence” by the prize jury.
The other longlisted books are: “Ninth Building” by Zou Jingzhi and translated by Jeremy Tiang, “A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding” by Amanda Svensson and translated by Nichola Smalley, “Still Born” by Guadalupe Nettle and translated by Rosalind Harvey, “While We Were Dreaming” by Clemens Meyer and translated by Katy Derbyshire, and “The Birthday Party” by Laurent Mauvignier and translated by Daniel Levin Becker.
“Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv” by Andrey Kurkov and translated by Rueben Woolley, “Is Mother Dead” by Vigdis Hjorth and translated by Charlotte Barslund, “Standing Heavy” by GauZ’ and translated by Frank Wynne, “Time Shelter” by Georgi Gospondinov and translated by Angela Rodel, “The Gospel According to the New World” by Maryse Conde and translated by Richard Philcox, “Whale” by Cheon Myeong-kwan and translated by Chi-Young Kim, and “Boulder” by Eva Baltasar and translated by Julia Sanches also made it to the list.