cover image Pyre


Perumal Murugan, trans. from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan. Black Cat, $17 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5933-5

Murugan (The Story of a Goat) delivers a powerful fable of star-crossed lovers and societal intolerance. Kumaresan, a young man from an isolated village in southern India, works as a deliveryman in a larger town, where he meets and marries Saroja, a leather worker’s daughter. After he brings her to his village, his widowed mother and the rest of the community are outraged that the bride is of a different caste and complexion. Hounded mercilessly, Saroja cowers in her hut and discovers she’s pregnant just as the village council decides to excommunicate the family unless her caste is revealed. Murugan describes rural life in piercing detail, making the everyday toil and inner lives of humble people the backdrop to the unfolding drama of escalating threats from Kumaresan’s relatives and neighbors. The simple, elegant prose of Vasudevan’s translation ranges from poetic (“The day slowly leaned over and fell to the west”) to suspenseful as the hopeful innocence of young love bristles against tradition and Saroja faces increasing danger from the villagers. The author himself was censored in 2014 by government-affiliated activists in India and briefly gave up writing; thankfully, he has returned. Murugan deserves worldwide recognition. Agent: Priya Doraswamy, Lotus Lane Literary. (Feb.)