Pyre by Perumal Murugan: Recently I read ‘Pyre’ an English Translation of noted Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s Tamil novel Pookkuzhi, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan.
‘Pyre’ is a devastating tale of young lovers of different castes and their struggle for existence after their inter-caste marriage against the society which is plagued by caste.
Kumaresan and Saroja, the recently married young couples arrives in Kumaresan’s village with the secret, If divulged to villagers might cause terrible consequences. The secret is that their marriage is inter- caste marriage. Kumaresan belives that things will be alright and he consoles his worried wife that things will be fine.
As they enter the village, The first encounter of a man who is a relative of Kumaresan gives a strong hint that things are going to be tough for the couples because they are failed to convince him that their wedding is not a inter-caste one. Just by seeing Saroja’s face and her complexion, he easily makes out that the girl is not from their caste.
As the couples approach Kumaresan’s hut, the village is gathered and the kind of welcome Kumaresan gets from his mother Marayi, startles Saroja and makes her faint.
What follows is the series of Humiliations and threats for both Saroja and Kumaresan from family, relatives and villagers. How they handle these tough time. As the Villagers suspicion grows stronger day by day, life becomes harder for Saroja and Kumaresan. It reaches to a point where the couples are asked to prove that Saroja belongs to the same caste. otherwise, they will be thrown out of the village.
The climax is the highlight of this novel and it will leave us gasping for air. It is so tense and suffocating that the reader can feel it. It makes us feel pity for Saroja and the society we live in. It is a clear exhibition of the state of mind of people, where caste is so rooted that anything comes in front of caste is of no value at all.
Perumal Murugan is considered as one of the important writers of contemporary Tamil literature. I took notice of Perumal Murugan, when his novel Maadhorubaagan stirred huge controversies and made the author quit writing.
Perumal Murugan was the only reason for me to pick this book. ‘Pyre’ makes me believe that my choice was not bad at all. ‘Pyre’ is well written book preserving the ethnicity and belief of people in that of part of the world. The story moves back and forth, where the author tells us how Kumaresan and Saroja fell in love with each other.
He captures the dilemma of Saroja very well. Saroja, A semi-urban girl who find very hard to cope up with the life of this remote village and her confrontation with the reality of life and the challenges it poses in the form of love and hate.
Marayi – Kumarasen’s Mother , a very important character in the story. How she feels and reacts to the situation created by his Son, her beliefs and way of living were written very well.
I want to read this novel in Tamil again to feel the nativity completely. Having said that, the translation of Aniruddhan Vasaudevan must be appreciated. He tried his best to preserve the nativity as much as possible. But as he himself mentions in the translators note – “In Tami text, Kumaresan and Saroja’s people speak differently. There speech is marked by rural and semi urban variations. It has been difficult to sustain that difference in translation.”
‘Pyre’ is a reflection of the events happening in the name of caste in our society. It questions the system and its morals.
Translated By: Aniruddhan Vasudevan
Year of Publication: 2017
Original Title: Pookkuzhi  – Tamil
Author: Perumal Murugan
About the Author
Perumal Murugan is an author, scholar and literary chronicler who writes novels in Tamil. He has written six novels, four collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry to his credit. Three of his novels have been translated into English: Seasons of the Palm, which was shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize in 2005, Current Show and One Part Woman. He was a professor of Tamil at the Government Arts College in Namakkal.