Perumal Murugan’s Pyre, a novel about caste based violence, becomes the first Tamil work to be longlisted for the prestigious International Booker prize.
“Perumal Murugan is a great anatomist of power and, in particular, of the deep, deforming rot of caste hatred and violence,” the 2023 Booker judges said.
It tells the story of a rural Tamil Nadu couple from different castes who fall in love and elope, and the violence that this act sets in motion.
In 2015, after protests against his work, the author declared that he was “dead” and gave up writing. This recent announcement has reignited interest in his works.
“I am delighted. It is historic that a Tamil novel has reached this place. It is an acknowledgment of Tamil literature. I am incredibly happy that the novel is mine,” he told the Guardian by email.
Pyre is written in Tamil, a language spoken by over 100 million people across South India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Sinagpore and the Diapsora. The 2013 novel was also translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan.
If Pyre makes the short list, it will be a contender for the £50,000 prize fund.
In 2021, award-winning Sri Lankan Tamil novelist Anuk Arudpragasam was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His debut, The Story of a Brief Marriage, was translated into seven languages, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.
In 2022, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Sri Lankan Sinhalese writer Shehan Karunatilaka won the Booker Prize. The novel explores life after death in a noir investigation set in 1990 amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war.