“There is a censor within me now”: Perumal Murugan on the motivations for his new book

26 January 2020
Nathan G
Nathan G

Perumal Murugan, a defiant voice in Tamil literature, is the author of 11 novels, four collections of short stories and five anthologies of poetry. Born in Thiruchengode, the versatile 53-year-old writer from the Kangu Nadu region of Tamil Nadu is currently a professor of Tamil at the Government Arts College in Attur, Salem.  

Murugan became the centre of a controversy at the end of 2014, following the publication of One Part Woman, an English translation of his book Maadhorubaagan (2010). The novel revolves around a couple who cannot conceive, and explores a religious ritual that Murugan found used to be practised in Thiruchengodu—it permitted childless women to have sex outside of marriage for one night during an annual chariot festival in the temple of Ardhanareeswara. Murugan was heavily condemned for publishing this story, and was threatened by protestors from Hindu outfits, who also demanded that the book be banned. In a Facebook post Murugan put up in early 2015, he announced that he was going into a self-imposed exile from literature: “Perumal Murugan the writer is dead. As he is not god, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone.” 

His recently published book, Amma, is a deeply personal and contemplative memoir, and also, his first work of non-fiction. Over a phone interview, Murugan discussed the motivation for writing this book and why his outlook towards writing has shifted since the controversy.

Meghna Prakash is an editorial intern at The Caravan.

Keywords: Tamil literature censorship perumal murugan