The Perumal Incident – In Conversation with the Author of Madhorubagan, Perumal Murugan

The Perumal Incident – In Conversation with the Author of Madhorubagan, Perumal Murugan

  • 08 Mar 2018
  • Nikhil
  • Features

 Perumal Murugan spoke about the Perumal incident and its aftermath during the International Festival of Books and Authors.

A literary work is a piece of art. The writer’s imagination put into words, the landscape of the city painted green and the characters are given a life of their own and moulded in the novel, taking the characters through the imagined storyline. But on the other hand, when the writer’s imaginations are put forth in words, the piece of art is accustomed to criticisms and controversy. And, one such work is Madhorubagan, written by Indian author and literary scholar, Perumal Murugan. 

At the International Festival of Books and Author, Perumal Murugan narrated the controversy that the book has stirred and its aftermath. The panel was moderated by Minipriya and Perundevi, who discussed the various aspects of his book and his other literary work.  
Addressing the gathering at International Festival of Books and Author, he said,

“I grew up in a place surrounded with palm trees. So, the most landscapes that I describe in my novels are inspired by the set up that I grew up in. In order to get the reader’s attention and give life to my novel, I gave realistic values to the characters of my novel. But, as a result, readers were unable to distinguish between fiction and history.”

His book Madhorubagan (One Part Woman, translated in English by Aniruddan Vasudevan) tells the tale of Ponna and Kali, a childless couple, who are subject to social stigma and humiliation for their inability to have a child. This being the case, Ponna’s mother and mother-in-law want to send her to Ardhanareeswar temple festival in Tiruchengode, where the women of the village are allowed to have consensual relationship with anonymous men. But on the other hand, Kali is against this and their marriage is put to test. 

Though this is a fictional piece of work, this novel attracted controversy in 2014, when the local caste-based and religious Hindu groups objected the fictional portrayal of the traditions. While Perumal Murugan was summoned by the police to make a peace talk and sign an ‘unconditional apology’ and withdraw all the copies of the novel. This being the case, he announced the death of his literary career through his Facebook Page. While this made the author to have sabbatical life from writing, he deferred from writing prose, but allowed his emotions to flow through, through poetry, which was published after the Madras High Court judgement, lifting the ban of his work and allowing the writer to resume his art. 
The panel discussion on the Perumal incident was concluded by the release of the English version of his latest book ‘Poonachi’ – a fable about a goat. The launch was followed by an interactive questions and answers session, to which the author answered in a very thoughtful manner. 

Text Credits: Roshan D                            Image Credits: Nikhil Wilson

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