Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s book Madhorubagan (translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan as One Part Woman) has recently come under fire by casteist groups, who claim that the book is indecent and should be banned. Copies of his books were burned, and his family received threats of violence, because of which his students voluntarily provided them with security.
Madhorubagan is the story of a couple, very much in love with each other, but unable to conceive a child. They participate in a ritual of fertility in the temple of the half-female god Ardhanareeswara. The ritual permits consensual intercourse between men and women participating: this could address their infertility, but yet test their marriage. Penguin, the publishers of the English translation, say, “Acutely observed, One Part Woman lays bare with unsparing clarity a relationship caught between the dictates of social convention and the tug of personal anxieties, vividly conjuring an intimate and unsettling portrait of marriage, love and sex.” Scroll.in published an excerpt, here.
The protests from casteist groups come because of the depiction of relations between men and women of different castes, in the book. After the book burning, when protests escalated to demands of arrest, Perumal Murugan posted on Facebook, saying “Author Perumal Murugan has died. He is no god, so he is not going to resurrect himself. Nor does he believe in reincarnation. From now on, Perumal Murugan will survive merely as a teacher he has been” He asked his publishers to withdraw the book, and indeed, all his writing. He says he will not write again.
This is the story of how aggressive caste politics, supported by the Hindu right, silenced the voice of an author. You can support him by buying the book and signing this petition on Change.org. You could also write to Penguin and ask them not to bow to pressure from political groups (like they did with Wendy Doniger’s book last year) and stand by the author they choose to publish.
- Buy the book in English translation here or here (ebook) or here (ebook) or here.
- Read a statement of support from his translator, Aniruddha Vasudevan and his publisher.
- Read translator and writer N Kalyan Raman on why Murugan’s book is significant to the debate on freedom of expression in India.
#NaanPerumalMurugan (I am Perumal Murugan)